Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:04 p.m.
By Joe Beninati
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This wasn't the prettiest game to call, but it was effective for the Capitals. Bruce Boudreau gave his group an informative lecture in the morning. It included details of how strong Carolina has been against Washington in the opening period. The head coach stoked the flames early and that helped his team remain focused.
The Hurricanes were trying to put on a good show for their home crowd in their home opener, but the Capitals would not cooperate. The team discipline in the neutral zone had to be frustrating for the Canes. There wasn't must room and as a result very little skating flow over large pockets of play.
The hardworking line of Matt Hendricks, David Steckel and Matt Bradley earned the Caps the lead in the first period. Steckel gave Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward a bump when he was out of his crease challenging a shot, and then while on his side Steckel made a nifty pass to Hendricks who buried his first goal as a Cap.
Michal Neuvirth would take over from there. His first NHL shutout was a sparkling 29 save effort. He repeatedly thwarted Eric Staal, the Hurricanes best scoring threat. The second period save Neuvirth made on Staal will be shown on highlight films for weeks. It was a full split, full extension glove save that had the Canes captain muttering to himself for minutes.
The Caps goalie anticipated plays around his net exceedingly well all evening. He and Ward were locked in an old fashioned goalie duel for a long time as this was a 1-0 game deep into the third period. Nicklas Backstrom picked up two insurance goals in that final frame. The first one was a quick pickup of a long rebound off Ward. The last one was a casual empty netter from behind the red line.
The team is on the plane as I write this, feeling good about their performance and hoping to duplicate it in St. Paul. Defensively the Caps were fundamentally sound and need to play the same way to take care of the Wild.