This game was a throwback in more ways than the Devils’ uniforms: New Jersey seemed to have returned to the ways of 1990’s NHL, keeping
Washington in the neutral zone all game. But thank Michal Neuvirth for saving the Caps’ behinds tonight as Washington defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-0 with just 12 shots on Martin Brodeur.
The only consistent spurt of offense for Washington came in the first period. The pressure on Brodeur resulted in Jeff Schultz’s first goal of the season. After that though, it seemed as though the Caps had forgotten to play offense. An alternative explanation could be because the Devils wore their original green and red uniforms tonight and took us back to the 1990’s trap style of hockey. Needless to say, the game was a little dull and slow as both teams spent a lot of time in the neutral zone.
However, while it remained a rare occasion to see Washington even slightly enter the Devils’ zone before the end of the game, two separate times Mike Knuble nabbed lucky goals as a result of successful passes from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson (who both assisted on both of Knuble’s goals). The Caps didn’t have to worry about dismal power play numbers tonight though (Caps were 0-for-4 against the Detroit Red Wings, as the Devils did not receive any penalties in the game.
“When you don’t have a lot of offense, you have to do it other ways,” said Ovechkin to Mike Vogel of WashingtonCaps.com.
Of course then, the reason Washington won was Neuvirth in net. Neuvirth, who was deemed as unstable after letting in weak goals his last few starts, looked his best tonight, stopping all 33 shots he faced. He made a number of key saves in the game, mainly one where he stabbed Ilya Kovalchuk’s breakaway shot with about three minutes to go to save the shutout.
It should come as no surprise though; Neuvirth came in to tonight’s match with a 3-0-0 record, a 1.33 GAA and .960 save percentage against the Devils. He certainly came in handy with the Caps having no power play chances, hardly leaving the zone, and to stand against 3 New Jersey power plays including a four-minute high-sticking minor.
Knuble said of his goalie, “He took a loss the other day in Detroit and he came back today and held us together.”
The victory comes two days after the Capitals ended their nine-game winning streak with a 3-2 loss against the Red Wings. Now halfway through their six-game road trip, the Capitals are 2-1, defeating the Montreal Canadiens, losing to the Red Wings and winning here against the Devils.
The Caps will start the second half of their trip in Philadelphia to play the only team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings, the Flyers. Tied for first with 94 points, the Flyers have the upper-hand over the Capitals with non-shootout wins and games-in-hand (Philadelphia with 70 games played and Washington with 73 games played). But every game so far between the two teams has been a one-goal affair. It is possible that the Caps can win this one, especially coming off more rest than in many of their previous matches and not having to travel so far to play.
Nonetheless, much like Wednesday’s matchup with the Red Wings was a test to how Washington can play against better opponents, this game on Tuesday against the Flyers will demand much of the same out of the Caps. The Caps are still without Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green (who is not even eligible to return until March 22), Eric Fehr and Jason Arnott, but so far they have been playing decently. However, the Capitals will need to find offense someway.