Capitals take 2-0 series lead behind Neuvirth's shutout

With 22 saves, rookie holds Rangers scoreless in 2nd playoff start

  • The Washington Capitals' Jason Arnott, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Alex Ovechkin, left, and Marco Sturm against the New York Rangers in the second period.
The Washington Capitals' Jason Arnott, center, celebrates… (JIM YOUNG / REUTERS PHOTO )
April 16, 2011|By Katie Carrera, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals knew they would need to withstand a push from the New York Rangers on Friday night in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Although the Rangers started quickly, it appeared as though they weren't prepared to handle the Capitals' counterpunch.

After New York's strong start, Washington answered with a second-period surge that featured goals less than two minutes apart from Jason Chimera and Jason Arnott that propelled the Capitals to a 2-0 win.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves to earn his first career postseason shutout; he has now stopped all but one of the 47 shots he's faced in his first pair of games in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The victory, though, gives Washington control of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal with a 2-0 lead just as the series shifts from Verizon Center to Madison Square Garden. It's only the second time Washington has held a 2-0 edge in a series under coach Bruce Boudreau; the first was in 2009 against Pittsburgh in the second round.

In Stanley Cup playoff history, teams have created a 2-0 advantage in series 307 times, and the team that trails has come back to win the series on only 41 occasions (13.4 percent). Those odds don't provide significant to the Capitals, however.

"We can enjoy [the win] for 20 minutes, but then we keep going," Chimera said. "We have to keep pushing. By no means is it done. When the hammer's down, you gotta keep on going. They can easily steal two there and come back and tie it."

Only two games into this matchup, it's already clear that much of this series will hinge on the goaltenders. On this night, it was the Capitals rookie who outdueled New York's All-Star veteran Henrik Lundqvist.

The 23-year-old Czech didn't allow many rebounds despite earnest efforts by the Rangers to crowd his crease and dig in his pads for the puck, and the goalie received help from his defense when it came to clearing pucks out of harm's way. It was the type of showing Washington needed, particularly in the first period as New York tried to rattle the Capitals with physical play and fire as many pucks as it could on Neuvirth.

From the opening faceoff, New York displayed the urgency the Capitals anticipated. The Rangers spent the opening five minutes in the offensive zone, and it was apparent they would try to create as much ruckus as possible around Neuvirth's crease on every play and after each whistle. Neuvirth didn't mind, however.

"This is playoffs — it's a lot of pressure on everyone. Scrums around the net, like I said it's the playoffs and for me I gotta handle this stuff," Neuvirth said. "They were coming pretty hard at us, and my defense, they did an outstanding job tonight."

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