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Neuvirth, Flyers shut out Blackhawks

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth was alone in his net, with Chicago Blackhawks star forward Marian Hossa bearing down on him.

The Flyers had a 1-0 lead and a power play midway through the second period when a shot by Jakub Voracek was deflected into the corner. Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg retrieved it and sent Hossa, who leads all active players with 30 shorthanded goals, in alone.

Neuvirth was up to the challenge; he got his blocker on the shot, one of 30 saves he made in the Flyers' 3-0 win Wednesday.

It was Neuvirth's second straight shutout, following a 31-save performance in a 1-0 win against the Florida Panthers on Monday. Dating to the third period of the Flyers' 7-1 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 10, Neuvirth has a shutout streak of 132:05.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Neuvirth is the second goaltender with shutouts in his first two starts with the Flyers. Jeff Hackett did it Oct. 9 and Oct. 16, 2003.

"I just feel the more I play the better I feel and more confident I get," said Neuvirth, who signed with the Flyers as a free agent this summer. "Just coming to the game, coming in relaxed and just thinking to myself have fun and trust yourself. It felt good."

Sam Gagner, Claude Giroux and Matt Read scored for the Flyers (2-1-1).

Corey Crawford made 25 saves for the Blackhawks (2-2-0).

Neuvirth had seven shutouts in his first seven NHL seasons, but prior to Monday his most recent shutout had been March 11, 2012. The only other time in his professional career he's had shutouts in consecutive games was with Hershey of the American Hockey League in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs.

"It's been unbelievable the last few days," he said. "The guys in front of me have been unbelievable as well. Our penalty kill has been very strong. It's just been two great team efforts, the whole 60 minutes."

Neuvirth's effort on Hossa's shorthanded breakaway, which came with 10:29 left in the second, was a game-changing moment. The Flyers were leading 1-0 at the time on Gagner's first goal of the season.

"I was just trying to stay patient and wait for him to do the first move," Neuvirth said. "My read was he was going five-hole or blocker and he was going low blocker."

Instead of a tie game, the Flyers kept momentum on their side and were able to push their lead to 2-0 late in the second period.

"That save comforted us," Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. "That could have been a turning point, gone down, but instead that save made us go harder."

Giroux's first goal of the season made it 2-0. He got into the blue paint to bang the rebound of Michael Raffl's shot from in close under Crawford at 16:21.

"I think we're playing the right way and playing as a team and everyone is buying into the way that we have to play," Giroux said. "We're getting rewarded for how we're playing and we just have to keep going like that."

The Blackhawks came out with a strong push in the third period, outshooting the Flyers 15-5. They nearly scored in the first minute when Duncan Keith's slap shot bounced off the end boards and into the crease. Neuvirth was out of position, leaving an empty net for Artemi Panarin, but he pushed his shot into Neuvirth's skates.

Chicago also had 3:37 of power-play time midway through the period, including 23 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage; the Blackhawks managed four shots on goal, none during the two-man advantage. They finished the night 0-for-5 on the power play.

"We had a short 5-on-3 where we didn't really get a great look," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Should have maybe put some pucks at the net right off the bat, to try to beat the next power play. Tonight would have been the night to get something going; we didn't get anything going. Give them credit."

A lot of that credit goes to Neuvirth, who started his second straight game in place of Steve Mason, who is out because of personal reasons.

"I'm just going day by day," Neuvirth said. "Work hard and every opportunity I get I'm going to do my best. If I do well I will get more ice time. It's up to me and how well I do."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Neuvirth's effort reinforces the fact that he feels his team has depth in goal.

"We know we have two good goaltenders and we felt that way coming into to the year," he said. "It's a difficult situation the last two games for a teammate. Michal has stepped in and done a very good job. ... I think you want to have strength and good depth at each and every position. I have to think what Michael did this week shows we have very good strength at the goaltending position."


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