Michal Neuvirth being hard on himself is nothing new. The goaltender who stays composed so often during games that it’s rare that he has to make a sprawling save prides himself on positioning.
So he was a little upset after giving up three goals Saturday night in the Capitals’ season-opening 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
But it was almost hard to blame Neuvirth on any of those goals. On the first one, a wide-open Eric Staal put it into an empty net on the power play. The second one was similar, with Staal given too much room. And the third, which forced OT, was a defensive miscue in which Karl Alzner and John Carlson both got caught behind the net.
Neuvirth made 28 saves but regretted not being in better position for Staal’s first goal.
“Maybe on the first goal I could stay on my legs and I think I went down a little bit early,” he said. “It was a great play by them, but I think I could’ve played it a little bit better.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau pointed to the second goal – perhaps – as one Neuvirth might want back. At least that time he and the Caps had a memory of what Staal could do when left open in point-blank range.
But then in overtime, Neuvirth dazzled. He made an impressive glove save with the Caps killing a penalty and gave his team the chance to leave with two points instead of one.
“In the overtime he was great. That’s when you need the big save from the goalie,” Boudreau said. “When you’re down four-on-three for two minutes in overtime, it was crunch time. He came through.”
Neuvirth, who got the nod over veteran Tomas Vokoun in the regular-season opener, validated Boudreau’s decision with sharp play throughout. It was an odd kind of game with Carolina’s scoring chances coming in spurts, but the 23-year-old stayed composed. As usual.
“It wasn’t easy game to play. But I stay positive whole game,” he said. “That’s big two points for us.”