Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth turned in quite a performance Friday night, stopping all 44 shots the Washington Capitals threw his way en route to a 2-0 Game 5 win for the Flyers. The performance was all the more impressive considering the Flyers registered a total of 11 shots on goal for the entire game.
“I like to face a lot of shots,” Neuvirth said. “It keeps me in the game. I enjoy it. Guys did a really good job in front of me. I was seeing the puck well. We didn’t take any bad penalties, and we stuck to our system. … [It’s] a big win for us.”
Neuvirth set Flyers franchise records for the number of saves in a Stanley Cup playoff shutout and in a regulation playoff win.
The Flyers made a goalie change ahead of Game 4, going with Neuvirth over Steve Mason, who lost the first three games of the series. The switch has paid off for the Flyers, as Neuvirth has stopped 75 of 76 shots in his two starts. He’ll look to continue his dominant play at home in Game 6 on Sunday.
After the Flyers signed Neuvirth to a two-year contract in the offseason, he and Mason ended up sharing the crease during the regular season, though Neuvirth had a much stronger year. However, when Neuvirth went down with an injury in March, Mason was outstanding in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Flyers would not have made the playoffs without Mason’s stellar play. But now it is Neuvirth’s turn, and he is making the most of his opportunity.
The Flyers scored just after a power-play in the second period when Ryan White turned with the puck and fired it towards the net. It was a lucky goal, as the puck deflected off the skate of a Capitals defenseman, beating Holtby. From that point on, everything was left to Neuvirth. The team played fairly well around Neuvirth, especially in the third period. But the Flyers committed countless turnovers and struggled to get the puck out of the zone, let alone in Washington’s end. Philadelphia’s 11 shots on goal were the fewest in franchise history in any regular-season or postseason game. Neuvirth single-handedly stole the game, keeping his team alive to fight another day. The Flyers sealed the deal at 19:29 of the third when Chris Vandevelde scored on the empty net.
“They were coming at us pretty hard tonight,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “We stayed with it. We played them hard and maybe they had a lot of shots, but we played them hard in front of our net and we tried to do our best in front of [Neuvirth].”
At times, it was a great display of team defense by the Flyers. However, the team is fully aware that 11 shots simply isn’t going to get it done on Sunday. Players like Giroux and Wayne Simmonds will have to step up offensively, and the team’s power-play will have to make something happen if the Flyers want to have a shot at forcing a Game 7.
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