Neuvirth Steps In & Steps Up As Caps Beat Leafs 3-2

Posted on January 11, 2014 by Bryan Adams @Bryan_Adams06

Michal Neuvirth, 1st Star Of The Game

Photo Credit: Washington Capitals

Any hopes of the Capitals awkward goalie situation playing itself out got thrown under the bus last night as the Caps hosted the Maple Leafs in Verizon Center. Just when we thought Holtby would get another chance to prove his worth to Caps Head Coach Adam Oates, he gave the starting nod to Michal Neuvirth for the first time since November 22nd. Needless to say, the goalie situation with not be rectifying itself anytime soon. Unlike Holtby's last outing, where he gave up 5 goals on just 11 shots, Neuvirth stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced last night. Though the game got off to a painfully slow start for both teams, Neuvi was forced to make several key stops in the first period and quickly got his legs under him, looking ever more comfortable as the game went on. Equally as surprising as Neuvirth getting the start last night was Defenseman Steve Oleksy being named a healthy scratch. Philipp Grubauer got the day off with Martin Erat, who’s been in Oates' doghouse all season.

The Caps got on the board first nearly half way through the 2nd period when Mike Green took a puck off the boards and slid a "seeing eye” pass through two Leafs defensemen to Grabovski. Grabovski had a clear lane to shoot the puck only about 10 feet from the net, but had the awareness to see Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin coming into the play as he fed Ovi on a bang bang play. The goal was Ovechkin's NHL leading 32nd of the season. Green and Grabovski picked up their 19th and 20th assists on the year respectfully. As we all know, the Caps seemingly don't enjoy playing with the lead and they all too often give up quick goals after scoring. Well, they did it again last night by giving up their league leading 23rd quick response goal (opponent scores within 2:30 of a Caps goal) when Leafs winger James Van Riemsdyk scored for the 16th time just 2:29 after Ovechkin’s tally. 

With 5:07 left in the 2nd period, this game got REALLY interesting and the fans who attended last night's game got their money's worth when Tom Wilson and Carter Ashton dropped the gloves. Up to this point, both teams had several good chances to pull away, but this is where it got a little feisty. Wilson and Ashton jockeyed for position while trading jabs before Wilson decided enough was enough and started going to town on Ashton. Just when the fans thought they'd seen a championship caliber fight, Big John Erskine and Colton Orr decided they would settle their differences and go toe-to-toe in a heavyweight bout. Rarely do two giant defensemen match up with an opponent equally as ferocious as themselves, but it happened last night. Both men were wildly throwing haymakers, but Erskine got the last laugh as he connected with Orr's chin, dropping him and forcing the refs to step in.  From this point on, the game was fast paced and both teams seemed to step their game up, making for an entertaining finish.

The 3rd period moved at a lightning quick pace that was made easier by the fact that there was only one penalty called on Toronto for tripping up Johansson, but the Capitals failed to capitalize on the Power Play. Phil Kessel gave the Leafs the lead just 54 seconds into the 3rd when he went top shelf on Neuvirth's short side.  It didn't take long for the Caps to retaliate though as Nicklas Backstrom tied the game up on a wrist shot that got some help by going off a Leafs defenseman's skate. Backstrom's goal was unassisted for his 11th tally of the year. After the game, Backstrom said "To be honest with you, I thought Brooksie scored that goal. He was celebrating like he scored it." With 8:09 remaining in regulation, Ovechkin sent a perfect pass cross-rink to Johansson who found Ward in front of Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier for what would prove to be the game winning goal. Ward mentioned post game that he didn't really get "all of it" on that shot and it's weird how sometimes he feels as though he makes better shots, but they don't find the back of the net. Toronto would have several more great chances to tie the game up late, but Neuvirth proved to be too much in net, making one excellent save after another.

Check out the links to watch both Tom Wilson and John Erskine's fights last night:




-The game marked Ovechkin's 12thmulti-point game of the season. Ovechkin has registered a point in 4 consecutive games which ties his longest points streak of the season.

- Nicklas Backstrom scored his 11th goal, marking his 4th consecutive game with a point and he has earned 23 points in his last 16 games.

- The Capitals improved to 9-3-4 in back-to-back games this season.

- Washington improved to 22-3-3 this season when scoring three or more goals.

If you were at the game last night or watched it from home please feel free to leave a comment below or follow us on Twitter: Bryan_Adams06 @DJ_SAAM & @TalkTheRed

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