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Capitals get G Halak from Sabres for G Neuvirth

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm •  Published: March 5, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Four years ago, Jaroslav Halak shut down Alex Ovechkin's top-seeded Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now the Capitals hope the goalie will help them reach the postseason.

Bringing aboard a player whose name conjures bad memories for the franchise, the Capitals acquired Halak from the Buffalo Sabres in a swap of goalies at the NHL trade deadline Wednesday.

The Capitals sent backup goalie Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla to Buffalo, which only acquired Halak last Friday in a deal with the St. Louis Blues. Washington picked up Klesla from the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

The Capitals, just outside the playoff picture at the moment, also received a 2015 third-round draft pick in the trade with Buffalo, which is last in the NHL with 44 points.

Halak starred for Montreal in the 2010 playoffs, when the eighth-seeded Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals in seven games. Over the last three games, Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots, including 41 of 42 in a 2-1 victory in Game 7.

"He's played well in Montreal. He's played well in St. Louis. And we hope he can come here and play well," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "He's a good goalie, and he can get hot."

McPhee said Halak — who can become a free agent after the season — and Braden Holtby will split time at goalie as Washington tries to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"Both guys'll start games," McPhee said. "We'll see where it goes."

The Capitals entered Wednesday 10th in the Eastern Conference; the top eight teams make the postseason.

Ovechkin tops the NHL with 43 goals, and Nicklas Backstrom is third with 48 assists. But Washington's defense has been a real problem: Only five of the other 29 teams have allowed more goals.

McPhee said none of the available defensemen "moved the needle." So that led him to the 28-year-old Halak, who went 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 40 games with the Blues this season. In eight NHL seasons with Montreal and St. Louis, he's appeared in 260 games, going 139-81-26 with a 2.38 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

Halak was in uniform for only one game with Buffalo. On Sunday, he was asked about the possibility of getting traded again.

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