Neuvirth made a few nice stops but they were overshadowed by what he did allow past him – an 88-foot fluke of a shot barely inside the red line and a power-play goal that beat him five-hole that was the kind of shot the Capitals need him to stop.
The consistency at which Washington’s offense provides support for either Neuvirth or Tomas Vokoun is uneven at best. Given how frequently the Capitals have been out-shot and out-chanced recently, they’ve been relying on sterling performances from the netminders in many of their wins.
At BankAtlantic Center, both trends came to a head – Florida held a 38-28 advantage in shots as the Capitals suffered from dry spells offensively and Neuvirth wasn’t flawless.
The cringe-worthy moment came 33 seconds into the second period, when Mikael Samuelsson shot from roughly a foot inside the red line. It caught Neuvirth by surprise, clanked off the post and into the left side of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“I thought he was going to go rim it [around the boards],” Neuvirth explained after the game. “I was cheating and he caught me.”
Neuvirth’s teammates weren’t overly critical of the goal, saying that it came early enough in the game that there was plenty of time for them to bounce back — which they did before the end of the second, having tied the score at 1 on a goal by Brooks Laich. But while the long-range goal wasn’t all the Panthers would need for a win, it was still a tough one to accept.
Said Coach Dale Hunter: “Everybody knows Neuvy would want it back. You don’t want to give up them, it gives the other team energy. But it happens with goalies – they let long ones in.”
It’s also the second long-range shot that beat Neuvirth this year, the first a floating shot from the blue line by Colorado’s Cody McLeod that he lost sight of while the puck was in mid-air.
“It’s not easy,” Neuvirth said when asked how he collects himself after allowing a goal like Samuelsson’s. “It never happened to me and now it’s second time. It’s tough.”
Early in the third period, though, Samuelsson recorded his second tally of the night on the power play with a wrister from the high slot. The shot went through Laich, who was on one knee attempting to block the shot, then through Neuvirth. By most accounts, it was a softy.
“I thought it hit something,” Neuvirth said of that second goal. “I don’t know if it hit Brooks but I thought puck changed direction.”