Michal Neuvirth skated out to defend the home net at Verizon Center on Friday night as anxious as he has ever been in his NHL career. It had been seven weeks since he last appeared in a game, a layoff brought about first by injury and then falling down the depth chart, and the Washington Capitals goaltender wanted to make sure he had a strong outing. But Neuvirth, whose most dominant on-ice traits are his poise and conservation of movement, never let his nerves show. He finished with 32 saves in his first start since Nov. 22, leading the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I was nervous as [heck]. Couldn’t really sleep in the pregame nap, but first time I step on the ice for the warmup I was feeling pretty good and confident,” said Neuvirth, whose agent recently requested the Capitals trade him because of his lack of playing time. “I just told myself, ‘It’s just another game. You’ve been [here] for some time in this league.’ I was confident. It was unbelievable feeling.” Neuvirth’s performance may further complicate the Capitals’ outlook in net as they continue to juggle the 25-year-old, who was a healthy scratch for 11 consecutive games prior to Friday’s contest, upstart rookie Philipp Grubauer and Braden Holtby. But on this night, it was simply a matter of Neuvirth helping Washington build on its momentum from a win the night before. The Capitals, having snapped a four-game losing streak in Tampa Bay on Thursday, could ill afford a setback while working to regain confidence and Neuvirth was there to make important stops as they managed to record consecutive regulation wins for just the second time this season.
Capitals 3, Maple Leafs 2: Neuvirth stops 32 shots
Washington Post | Jan 11