When the puck dropped just after 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, Michal Neuvirth started a game for the first time since March 16 at the Boston Bruins. It was the first time the Washington Capitals’ backup goaltender started at home since Feb. 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“In the first few minutes I felt like it was my first game of the year,” Neuvirth said. “I haven’t played so long, especially in this building. I missed playing here.”
It was just Neuvirth’s third start anywhere in the Caps’ past 26 games. He allowed a power-play goal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first shot but finished with 28 saves on 30 shots for his first victory since March 14.
“I gave up goal on the first shot, it’s always tough, but I stick to my plan and I made a couple of big saves and it got me going and I feel good the rest of the way,” Neuvirth said.
Neuvirth playing broke Braden Holtby’s streak of consecutive starts at 11. Holtby went 8-2-1 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .923 save percentage over that time.
In what could be his final start of the regular season, Neuvirth was “solid” in the eyes of coach Adam Oates.
“We didn’t give them much,” Oates said. “I think they ended up with like 30 shots, but we didn’t give him many chances. I thought we had a really solid third period, didn’t really leave him out to dry.”
Neuvirth made two point-blank saves on Vinny Lecavalier and a handful of other memorable ones. The 25-year-old found a rhythm in net not long after a soft goal by Alex Killorn.
He had to shake off some rust, naturally.
“It’s always tough, but it is what it is. I’m getting pay to stop pucks,” Neuvirth said. “That’s what I did tonight. I’m glad to get back in the action and gave Holts a little bit of rest.”