- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2012

BOSTON — This is just about the last thing the Washington Capitals needed. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun shook his head as he skated to the bench, apparently aggravating a groin injury that has lingered for almost a month.

Pronouncing himself finally healthy, Vokoun looked to be the man in net down the stretch. But his comeback ended late in the first period against the Boston Bruins, a rough moment on a roller-coaster night. It may wind up being a devastating turn of events for the Capitals, but Thursday it wasn’t, as Michal Neuvirth stepped in to pick up the shootout victory.

“When Neuvy came out there, he was standing on his head right away and kept us in the game,” center Marcus Johansson said.

Neuvirth came in cold with 1:35 left in the first period. Vokoun made a sliding right-to-left save on Andrew Ference, the whistle sounded and Vokoun immediately got up and skated to the bench. Seamlessly, Neuvirth entered and made 19 saves through the rest of regulation and overtime.

The 23-year-old has been strong in relief several times this season, but this was another level of pressure.

“Like I said so many times, it’s not easy to come into net from the bench,” Neuvirth said. “But the guys did outstanding job. They help me a lot, and a huge two points for us.”

Hunter said Vokoun was “OK” after the game, though that’s hardly a glowing medical report for a 35-year-old goaltender who is going through the first groin injury of his NHL career. It’s uncertain what his status is moving forward.

Neuvirth on Thursday night made his case for why he should get the reins in the final four games of the regular season instead of 22-year-old Braden Holtby, if Vokoun cannot go. But the Caps needed Neuvirth to play well in relief.

“I think everybody have to take a step forward right now,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Vokey play well. He makes unbelievable saves, but he gets hurt. Neuvy went in right away, especially in that kind of atmosphere, in that kind of important game, it was huge for us. It’s very important for us that the goalie plays hard and goalie plays well.”