In his first game since November 22, goalie Michal Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 Capitals win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neuvirth was tested early as he faced 7 shots in the first 7 minutes. He always seemed to be in the right place to make an easy save. “I thought he played a great game, I really did,” commented Coach Adam Oates. “Where we go from here I don’t know.”
The first period ended in a scoreless tie as the teams seemed sluggish. Each had played and traveled the night before.
With five minutes left in the second, and the score tied 1-1, Tom Wilson and Carter Ashton fought immediately after the face-off. Wilson easily won the fight landing several jabs to the face and a couple uppercuts to the head. Next faceoff, John Erskine and Colton Orr fought. Again, the Capitals won the fight as Erskine landed several hooks to the head and what appeared to be a knock-out punch at the end.
These fights elevated the physicality of the game. So what began as a sluggish hockey game in the first ended as a hard hitting, back and forth game in the third. According to Nicklas Backstrom, “after the fights, it was way better…Just my opinion.”
Oates had Alex Ovechkin play with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski, and Backstrom play with Troy Brouwer and Brookes Laich. The Ovechkin line had 1 goal (Ovechkin), 2 assists and 9 shots. The Backstrom line had 1 goal (Backstrom), 0 assists and 6 shots. Backstrom seemed uncertain but optimistic about the new lines after the game. “I think it will get better and better.”
Joel Ward scored the game winning goal for the Capitals with eight minutes to go in the third.