Beninati: Practice makes perfect

Beninati: Practice makes perfect
March 19, 2011, 3:48 am
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Friday, March 18, 2011 11:45 p.m.


By Joe Beninati

While I was watching Michal Neuvirth go through his morning routine at Prudential Center, it dawned on me that I had seen him be so sharp once before in practice this year. It was the day of an early-season game in Raleigh. He was just fabulous in the morning workout, and he went on to shutout the Hurricanes that night. Well, he reproduced that performance against the Devils on Friday.

Neuvirth was the difference in the first period without a doubt. Bruce Boudreau was worried because the rest of his team seemed to be low on energy at the morning skate. His fears about that carrying over into the game were accurate, but his goalie made sure no harm would come to the Caps.

Once Neuvirth stopped a laser beam from Brian Rolston in the first two minutes, I knew the Caps were in good hands.

Washington would grab a first period lead on a goal from an unlikely suspect. Mike Knuble hooked up with Jeff Schultz in the high slot, and the big defender jammed a slapshot off Martin Brodeurs glove and into the goal. It was only the beginning of a big night for Knuble.

Brodeur only faced two shots in the first frame and a meager 13 for the entire game. The future Hall of Famer has struggled in the second contest of back-to-back games this season, and while I will not heap blame upon him for this loss, he did not give his club the exceptional stops that Neuvirth was making at the opposite end.

Caps defender John Carlson is a Jersey boy who grew up in nearby Colonia. He and his family hosted a dinner party for his teammates last night, and whatever Mom served up sure agreed with her son.

Carlsons first assist on the night was a perfect dish to Knuble in the second period that made it 2-0 Caps. His second helper came after he won a board battle in the defensive zone and advanced the puck to Alex Ovechkin in period three.

Ovechkin made a beautiful pass to Knuble who was streaking down the wing. The veteran leader whipped a shot over the glove of Brodeur and the Caps were pretty much assured of victory.

All that was left was to close the deal on another shutout for Neuvirth. The young Czech, who will turn 23 next week, made sure the Devs wouldnt do any celebrating as he put the exclamation point on the game with a sweet glove grab off an Ilya Kovalchuk breakaway with about three minutes left.

The win puts the Caps into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers, whom they will play on Tuesday in the city of Brotherly Love.