Neuvirth rock solid in net, sends series back to Philly
Flyers goalie makes 44 saves to blank Capitals, taking series to Game 6
Karl Alzner was talking to reporters on Friday morning when he was asked about the Washington Capitals’ lot in life.
“I don’t think we feel a whole lot of pressure,” the Capitals defenceman said. “We’re happy with the position we are in. We are playing pretty good hockey. I don’t think there is a need to put pressure on ourselves.”
No, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth is doing enough on his own to put heat on the Capitals.
We can’t acknowledge having seen all of Neuvirth’s games in the National Hockey League, so we will have to go on a limb and assume his stunning performance on Friday night at the Verizon Center is one he has not personally matched.
Neuvirth stopped all 44 Capitals shots he saw as the Flyers put another dent in the Caps’ desire to close out the Eastern Conference best-of-seven, winning Game 5 by a 2-0 score.
Chris VandeVelde iced it when he scored into an empty net in the final minute.
The Flyers had 10 shots on Washington goalie Braden Holtby and got their 11th on VandeVelde’s goal.
The Capitals remain in control of the first-round series and take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday.
But the Flyers have all the momentum after winning two in a row — the Capitals did not lose backto-back games in regulation during the regular season on the way to winning the Presidents’ Trophy — and the Wells Fargo Center will be beyond electric for Sunday’s game.
Neuvirth, who started Game 4 in place of Steve Mason and made 31 saves, is the reason this is going back to Philly.
A raucous crowd did all it could to get behind the Capitals, but it went for naught as Neuvirth, drafted by the Caps 10 years ago, was terrific.
In the third, Neuvirth stopped T.J. Oshie on a backhand from the edge of the crease.
Jay Beagle was denied on a shorthanded chance after a great pass from Daniel Winnik. On it went.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tried desperately to take the game over, but it wasn’t happening with Neuvirth in net. Ovechkin was everywhere and had eight shots on goal to go with eight hits.
But nothing to show for it in the area of the scoresheet that mattered most.
The Flyers nearly took a 2-0 lead, but Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot hit the post to Holtby’s right.
Later, Gostisbehere made a fine defensive play when he blocked an Oshie pass attempt on a two-onone. Neuvirth turned aside 16 shots in the second period.
Marcus Johansson was looking at an open net until Neuvirth flopped out of nowhere to stop him, and earlier, the goalie was square to the puck as Ovechkin fired off a one-timer.
The Caps were doing good things, but ultimately could not get out of their own way with penalties. And it caught up to them.
Veteran Justin Williams, who should know better, had just finished serving his fourth minor of the game when the Flyers took a 1-0 lead at 7:52 of the second period.
A shot by Ryan White, if that’s what it was, bounced off the skate of Washington defenceman Taylor Chorney and into the net. The goal came three seconds after Williams’ penalty expired. The goal was counted as the Flyers’ seventh shot on goal and first of the period. They managed just one more before the horn sounded to end the period.
At the opening faceoff, Oshie and the Flyers’ Brayden Schenn dropped the gloves and had a spirited scrap. We would hate to draw conclusions about the reasons for the fight, but the Caps were unhappy with Schenn’s deliberate cross-check to the knee of Evgeny Kuznetsov in Game 4.
On Friday morning, Schenn was asked about the cross-check.
“All I’m going to say about that is it was a pretty dumb play by me,” Schenn said. “There is no reason for that.”
Kuznetsov was not injured. Caps coach Barry Trotz called the cross-check “dangerous” and “disrespectful.”