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Neuvirth giving Caps rock-solid goaltending

by Corey Masisak
WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers wanted to get more shots on rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth, and in the first period they did. The Rangers wanted to make life in the crease less comfortable for the 23-year-old with one NHL postseason start, and at times they did.

What the Rangers didn't do was score on the baby-faced goaltender, who now boasts two wins and one shutout on his brief but growing playoff resume as the Capitals hold a 2-0 lead in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

"He stood on his head," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said after Friday night's 2-0 win in Game 2. "It is only two games, but he's been our rock so far and we hope he continues that for sure."

Neuvirth saw only 25 shots in more than 78 minutes in Game 1, but the Rangers had nearly half that many in the opening period Friday night at Verizon Center. He didn't have to make any highlight-reel stops, but there was plenty of activity to keep him busy.

Getting the Capitals to the first intermission in a scoreless tie proved to be large, because they gathered themselves and took control of the game with a strong start to the second period.

"They had a lot of shots early in the game," Neuvirth said. "After the first period they had like 13 shots, but I felt pretty good about my game. After that I don't think we gave up many good scoring chances and that was a solid team effort tonight."

Washington's defense took control after the Capitals built a 2-0 advantage lead with two goals 1:58 apart early in the second period. New York had only three shots in the middle 20 minutes, and one was a shorthanded dump-in by Brandon Dubinsky from his knees in the neutral zone.

The Rangers were able to keep the puck on Washington's half of the ice for much of the third period, but they generated only six shots on Neuvirth. A couple of their best chances were attempts that never got to the goaltender.

Still, there was plenty of commotion in front of the net as the Rangers tried to create a spark for themselves and knock Neuvirth out of his rhythm.

"This is the playoffs. It is a lot of pressure on everyone," Neuvirth said. "There was a lot of scrambles around the net. But this is the playoffs and I've got to handle this stuff. They were coming pretty hard at us. I think my defense did an outstanding job tonight."

The end result through two games is 46 saves on 47 chances for Neuvirth. A .979 save percentage is gaudy, but the two wins -- and the composure he's shown -- have been far more important at this point to his coach.

"He's just been steady. He doesn't seem to be rattled," Capitals coach Boudreau said. "At the same time [Semyon Varlamov] doesn't get rattled either. I think the guys are protecting [Neuvirth] pretty well. He's making the saves he is supposed to be making and that's just something I expect out of him."
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