Mike Green scored the winner in tonight’s 4-3 victory over Carolina and was named the first star. But the game might not have gotten to that point without the stellar play of goalie Michal Neuvirth, who stopped all four Hurricanes’ shots in overtime.
Three of the shots Neuvirth faced in the extra session – a snap shot by Jussi Jokinen, a tip from Joni Pitkanen and a wrist shot off the stick of Jeff Skinner – came as the Caps killed off a 4-on-3 Hurricanes’ power play.
“In the overtime he was great,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s when you need the big saves from your goalie, when you’re down 4 [men on] 3 in overtime. It was crunch time.”
Neuvirth finished with 28 stops to outduel Brian Boucher, who had 32.
Neuvirth was the surprise starter in tonight’s opener, but he is expected to back up Tomas Vokoun on Monday when Caps host Tampa Bay.
Overall, Neuvirth was solid, if unspectacular. All three Hurricanes goals were the result of nifty crossing passes that forced Neuvirth to move side-to-side, including Eric Staal’s second power play goal of the night 18 seconds into the third period.
“The second goal might have been the only goal he could have done something about,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He takes a lot of pride in that, so I’m sure he was a little angry at himself.”
Said Neuvirth: “I was just mad. It happens.”
Neuvirth added that the key for him was staying focused in overtime after Jokinen tied the game at 3 with 1:19 left to play in regulation.
“Even when we let up that third goal, I stayed positive and I still believe that we can win the hockey game,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy game, but it is two points and a big win for our team.”