The New York Rangers paid a post-Thanksgiving visit to the Verizon Center in hopes of breaking out of their scoring slump, while the hometown Washington Capitals hoped to extend their recent win streak to three in a row. Alas, the Caps came out sluggish and sloppy in a stinging 6-3 loss to the rival Rangers.
At around the 15:00 mark of the first period, Dmitry Orlov had a clean pass to Joel Ward (who was clearly wide awake after oversleeping and missing a team meeting earlier in the week, earning him a seat in the press box on Wednesday under the new accountability code). The red lights on the goal post went on, drawing cheers from the crowd. Upon closer review, King Henrik Lundqvist made a rather nifty pad save on what would have been a sweet marker.
At 11:04, Alex Semin took his signature hooking call and to the amusement of the media folk in the press box, just skated right to the sin bin with no objection to the call (it does seem to be his home away from home sometimes, eh). New York’s Brian Boyle evened it up seconds later as he wood-chucked John Carlson in the corner. On the 4-on-4, Jason Chimera blasted a rocket towards Lundqvist that was promptly stonewalled by the veteran net minder.
Much of the first period was a sleeper, with the Capitals taking too many sloppy passes in their zone and not clearing the puck. In their defense, the Rangers didn’t seem to be very speedy either – my guess is too many turkey hangovers on the ice. The Rangers, unfortunately, would find their scoring prowess at the expense of too many defensive gaffes on the part of Washington in the last two periods.
At 15:31 of the first, Roman Hamrlik tried to slow down sniper Marian Gaborik and took as seat for hooking. The penalty woes continued when Alex Ovechkin got into a scuffle at the whistle and was charged with roughing at 17:56. Boy how those Rangers like to get under their skin! At the end of a slow first period, shots were even for both teams (eight apiece) and both teams held scoreless.
The second period started at even strength but it wasn’t long until the Rangers found their offense in the form of a goal by Gaborik, assisted by Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov. A sprawling Jeff Schultz could not block the puck which blasted by Michal Neuvirth. The boys from Broadway weren’t done there, however. Less than four minutes later, at 6:52, Anisimov tallied the Rangers’ second marker on the power play, quieting the holiday matinee home crowd.
The Capitals’ uninspired performance lagged on and the Rangers struck again at 7:55 with goal number three courtesy of Ruslan Fedotenko. Apparently that shook the boys up and Ovechkin proceeded to crush Gaborik in the corners once play resumed. Seizing the momentum (and crashing the net – always helpful), Troy Brouewer finally got the Caps on the board at 8:53 with help from Nicklas Backstrom and Carlson.
The Caps got their third power play of the day as Michael Sauer hooked Ovi in the corner. Captain America John Carlson made them pay with a wicked blast from the point that blew past Lundqvist (with help from pals Marcus Johannson and wunderkind Orlov).
The momentum swung back in New York’s direction as Neuvy let in a plain ugly goal from Bryan Boyle, boosting the Blue Shirts to a two-goal lead at 16:49. At the end of the second period, the Rangers led the Caps in shots with 23-17.
The third period didn’t get any better for the boys in red as free agent of the summer Brad Richards scored the Rangers’ fifth goal. Not to be outdone, Ovechkin took a feed all the way up the left wall and went top-shelf on King Henrik, a brilliant goal reminiscent of the Ovi we haven’t seen in awhile.
The fun didn’t last so long though as Neuvy‘s shaky afternoon in goal dragged on and he was unable to kick out a puck from Fedotenko, who lit the lamp at 11:40. Note to self: the Capitals’ defense left Fedotenko as wide open as Target on Black Friday – right in front of the net!
The Rangers return to the Big Apple with a big win while Washington’s Bruce Boudreau is left with the question of how to fix what is ailing this inconsistent Capitals team. The absence of Mike Green from the lineup notwithstanding, the defense has been struggling to say the least. Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik were both -3 on the night and were benched for much of the third period. Post game, the disappointment was evident in the locker room as Troy Brouwer, Carlson and Ward all blamed the defensive lapses on the loss, with Ward admitting that they “left Neuvy out to dry at times” this evening.
Meanwhile, a somber Boudreau was pressed with questions about how to regain confidence after allowing consecutive goals. Boudreau quipped, “We start to feel sorry for ourselves, then we score a goal, and say: ‘Oh, we’re back into it. Once it started with those four goals, it seemed to snowball. This is a league where you can’t feel sorry for yourselves.” He also noted that this whole week they’ve emphasized one-on-one battles, but obviously concept that was not put to task consistently in tonight’s lackluster loss.
The boys have one morning skate to regroup before they take on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow – another team looking to rebound from a tough loss (at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets).