January 08, 2015

Prior to Game 4, Michal Neuvirth hadn't started in the postseason in five years. That came with the Washington Capitals, who eventually felt Neuvirth was expendable because of Braden Holtby's emergence.

Neuvirth is getting a measure of revenge against his former team now, though, helping the Philadelphia Flyers battle back in the series. Another victory Sunday at home would force an unlikely Game 7 and put Washington on the brink of yet another playoff failure.

Steve Mason started the first three games and had a dismal .852 save percentage that led to the Flyers falling into an 0-3 hole. His most embarrassing moment came in Game 2, when he allowed Jason Chimera's 101-foot dump-in to slip through his legs.

Coach Dave Hakstol had little choice but to insert Neuvirth after Mason lost 6-1 in Game 3. Neuvirth has been up to the challenge, stopping 31 shots in a 2-1 victory Wednesday before making 44 saves for his second career postseason shutout in Friday's 2-0 win.

''I like to face a lot of shots. It keeps me in the game,'' said Neuvirth, who set franchise records for saves in a playoff shutout and saves in a regulation playoff 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 and big win for us.''

That system didn't generate much offense for him, though. Philadelphia managed only 11 shots - the fewest in franchise history in the regular season and playoffs - despite having six power-play opportunities, becoming the first team to win a playoff game with that total since Washington beat Ottawa in 1998.

Ryan White scored in the second period and Chris VandeVelde added an empty netter.

"Neuvy made some big saves," White said. "It's the time of year where it doesn't how you get it done, you've just got to get it done."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz seemed bewildered after his club dominated throughout most of the game. Washington has suffered back-to-back regulation losses for the first time all season, and its fans likely are experiencing a case of postseason deja vu.

The Capitals blew a 3-1 lead to the New York Rangers in the second round last year, preventing them from reaching their first Eastern Conference finals since losing to Detroit in the 1998 Stanley Cup Final.

Trotz didn't have much to complain about after this defeat, though. Washington had a total of 82 shot attempts and pressed hard offensively, just as it did in the previous four games.

"They had five even-strength shots all game," Trotz said. "I thought our penalty kill was outstanding. And they got a little bit of a lucky goal. You put the puck to the net, and sometimes it goes in. If we play like that next game, we should be fine."

Alex Ovechkin had series highs of eight shots on goal and eight hits. He's yet to break through on Neuvirth.

''We have lots of perimeter shots, but we don't have traffic in front of the net,'' Ovechkin said. ''You see all these (saves) that he makes, he sees everything.''

Neuvirth's back-to-back solid efforts have overshadowed the fact that Holtby has been stellar throughout the series. He's stopped 123 of 128 shots, and Game 4 is the only one in which he's allowed more than one goal.

Holtby has a 1.97 goals-against average in 20 career playoff games on the road, but the Capitals have lost 13 of them.

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