Cool Demeanor Helps Michal Neuvirth Brush Aside Capitals' Onslaught

WASHINGTON - Within 20 minutes from the final buzzer sounding, his teammates stood a few feet away on a podium, a crowd of reporters and cameras asking questions about him. One by one, they offered their praise.

Michal Neuvirth was on a stationary bike, his head slumped down. His legs pedaled fast as he picked his head up to take a sip from one of the assortment of fluids he had in front of him resting on the handlebars.

He let out a few grunts.

Moments later, he was asked about the second-period onslaught, the one in which his Flyers were outshot, 16-2. The one in which they went the final 10:11 without a shot attempt. But the one they scored the winning goal in allowing their goalie to - as Sam Gagner said - "steal" them Game 5 with an improbable 2-0 win (see Instant Replay).

Was Neuvirth tired at all during that period?

"No, I wasn't tired," said the goalie Dave Hakstol turned to, looking for a spark in Game 4.

And then? Even after the biking and grunting?

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After making 44 saves, Neuvirth stood on that podium, arms folded, and answered questions the same way he has all season: Short with his words. A calm, cool and collected demeanor about him. He didn't once smile.

A reporter asked him if he was trying really hard not to be excited, after playing arguably the best game of his career and one that will most certainly go down in Flyers playoff lore.

"You can never get too high or too low," Neuvirth said. "We're still down in the series and still got work to do."

There's work to be done thanks to him. Thanks to the goalie that started the year as Steve Mason's backup and outplayed him over stretches of the season, going 18-8-4 with a career-best .924 save percentage.

The Flyers played most of the entirety of the 60 minutes Friday in their own end, the Capitals trying their hardest to close out their first-round series in front of the home crowd at Verizon Center.

During a stretch in the second period, after the Flyers took their lead on Ryan White's goal, Neuvirth made nine saves in a span of 5:22, including five saves in a minute-and-a-half stretch.

The final shot attempt tally: 82-27. The Flyers, playing on their heels, blocked a whopping 19. The Capitals missed 19. And Neuvirth, who missed a month at the end of the season with a lower-body injury, took care of the rest.

Through two games in this series, he's stopped 75 of 76 shots.

His best Friday, though there were plenty to choose from, came just over eight minutes into the third period. With Washington shorthanded, Daniel Winnik streaked up the left wing and slid a cross-ice pass right on the stick of Jay Beagle. Neuvirth stretched his left leg out and got his skate on it.

Later, his teammates marveled over his play.

"Not personally. Not live," captain Claude Giroux answered when asked if he'd ever seen a performance like that. "That was pretty impressive. The way he worked, that was pretty amazing. We did the best we could in front of him to eliminate the high-quality chances. They were shooting pucks from everywhere. He did a good job controlling rebounds. It was pretty impressive."

The rebound control was key. Neuvirth has many times this season credited goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh with improving the puck-tracking ability of both he and Mason. It was evident Friday night. Time after time, Neuvirth denied Washington second opportunities.

Though even when he did, like when Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson found rebounds on their sticks, he adjusted and made saves.

And then he talked about it later. Cool, calm, collected. No sounds any more demonstrative than his grunting and pedaling.

"He's very calm. All the time," said fellow Czech Republic native, Jake Voracek. "I've known him for about 15 years. I don't think I've seen him mad once. He's always very calm, especially in the net.

"The last two games he's been outstanding, gave us a chance to win the game. Here we are, going back home and no one expected it."

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