NEW YORK — Michal Neuvirth thought there was a chance he could start Sunday afternoon at the New York Rangers, even though Tomas Vokoun was set to start for the Washington Capitals in such a marquee matchup.
But Neuvirth woke up to the possibility that he’d play.
“I had a text message from Vokey; he doesn’t feel good in the morning,” he said.
True to his competitive nature, Vokoun tried to play through the flu, even taking warm-ups as the starting goaltender. Because he led the team onto the ice for warm-ups, it looked like the 35-year-old would get the start.
But instead it was Neuvirth, who didn’t find out until “a few minutes before the game,” that he was in net.
“[Vokoun] tried to do it in warm-up, but he wasn’t feeling 100 percent, so that’s why we tried to go with Neuvy then,” coach Dale Hunter said.
And though Neuvirth fell to 6-9-3 on the season thanks to the 3-2 loss, his performance was more than acceptable given the unique situation he was put in.
“We’ve got confidence in both of our goalies and Neuvy played great tonight,” center Mathieu Perreault said. “The goals he got scored on, it’s not much he could do, and he made some big saves for us.”
Neuvirth finished with 25 saves on 28 shots, and the goals the Rangers scored came on breakdowns both at even strength and with the Caps on the power play.
It looked like the 23-year-old was fighting the puck a lot in the first period, but he settled down. The Rangers were pressing, but Neuvirth warmed up quick despite a lack of real pregame preparation.
“It’s tough, especially early game and no pregame skate,” Neuvirth said. “I think I got better as the game went on. I battled hard. It’s a disappointing loss, but we’ve got to regroup and be ready for tomorrow.”
• Stephen Whyno can be reached at email@example.com.
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