November 1, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 53 Review: Strasburg, Desmond big in 9-2 win over Texas

The Washington Nationals survived a quiet start to score in every inning from the fourth through eighth and defeated the Texas Rangers 9-2 before 31,659 at Nationals Park

Stephen Strasburg gave up a pair of unearned runs in the second inning — on his own error then singles by the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, including Rangers starter Colby Lewis — but nothing more, as he cruised through six innings in total, allowing just six hits and one walk, striking out nine.

Strasburg lowered his ERA to 3.15 and evened his record at 4-4.

Meanwhile, the Nats (26-27) busted out for 15 hits and a pair of walks against Lewis (L, 4-4, 5.44) and relievers Robbie Ross, Jr.

Denard Span and Jayson Werth had three hits apiece, with Anthony Rendon, Wilson Ramos and Nate McLouth all chipping in with two hits. The big blow, though, was Ian Desmond’s 10th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fourth inning that finally got the Nats on the board.

We even saw a little of the bizarre, as Ramos’ walks came after five balls — both the scoreboard and home plate umpire lost correct track of the count.

The Nats host the Rangers Saturday at 12:05 pm Eastern. Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42) faces Nick Tepesch (2-0, 2.95).

NATS NOTES: Ryan Zimmerman made his first rehab start with Potomac Friday night. He went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly as the designated hitter. He expects to play three or four more games with the P-Nats, including at least one in left field.

Washington Capitals Game 49 Recap: Caps losing streak reaches 5 in 4-1 loss to Rangers

Following the Washington Capitals dispiriting 5-1 loss in Columbus Friday night, the Caps needed to come out Sunday against the New York Rangers and play with a renewed focus, intent on breaking the current 4-game losing streak. Instead, the Caps gave up a goal less than two minutes in the game and was owned by the home-standing Rangers, 4-1.

The now 5-game skid is the longest in Washington since the 8-game losing streak in December 2010.

The game was just 70 seconds old when Dmitry Orlov tried to play a delicate pass to Nick Backstrom to get out of his own end, and instead Rick Nash picked it off easily, skated in alone, and lifted a backhander over the helpless Philipp Grubauer as the Rangers took a 1-0 lead before the fans had filled the seats.

The Caps then had the better of play for a little while, but after a chanceless power play, the Rangers were granted a 5-on-3 chance after Martin Erat hooked in the offensive zone, then Karl Alzner hooked Mats Zuccarrello just 27 seconds into the first penalty. It took mere moments for Nash to record his second goal of the game and 14th of the season, as his wrist shot from the right wing circle slipped between Grubauer’s legs.

As the power play was expiring, Derek Stepan used Troy Brouwer as a screen, and his wrister got through as Grubauer could never find it. Just like that, the Caps were down 3-0.

The Caps had a 5-on-3 opportunity at the start of the second period and they took advantage of it, as Alex Ovechkin notched his 35 of the season, from the left wing circle, evading Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

But these days the Caps can’t handle prosperity, as the Rangers victimized the Caps shorthanded. Dominic Moore corralled a turnover in the Caps end, raced up the ice and unleashed a long shot on Holtby, who managed to kick it into the slot. Unfortunately, Ryan Callahan had outraced Orlov to the spot and slammed home the rebound to make it 4-1.

The Caps didn’t put up much of an effort for a comeback in the third period.

Maybe the biggest thing of importance in this one was Martin Erat taking three minor penalties. With his trade request already in the books, this game (and the need for a shake-up) could very well be enough for Oates and McPhee to remove him from the playing roster.

The Capitals host the Ottawa Senators Tuesday at 7:00 pm.

Washington Capitals Game 38 Review: Caps not sharp but Fehr’s third period marker beats Rags 3-2

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 27: Mike Green #52 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center on December 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Eric Fehr’s goal, playing four-on-four with 5:09 left in the game, lifted the Washington Capitals over division-rival New York Rangers 3-2 before a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.

Fehr, playing in his 300th NHL game. took a breakout pass from Nick Backstrom, carried over the blue line, and sent a wrist shot that slipped past Rangers’ goalie Cam Talbot to break a 2-2 tie. The Caps — outplayed in much of this one — withstood the Rangers change the last few minutes of the game to hold on and escape with the two points.

The Caps raise their record to 20-14-4 in the process.

Phillip Grubauer was the Caps player of the game, making 38 saves on 40 shots, and bailing the Caps defense out time and again, especially with the pairing of John Erskine and Steve Oleksy on the ice.

The Caps got out first in this one. With Rick Nash off for tripping, Martin Erat worked the puck down the right wing boards to draw the defense, and backhanded the puck to Mike Green who was waiting at center point. Green unleashed a slap shot that beat goalie Cam Talbot glove side to give the Caps a 1-0 lead just 6:55 into the first period.

The Rangers led the Caps in shots on goal (14-7) and total shots (21-14) in the first frame, with both teams recording three shots on goal during the power play.

New York tied it up a mere 1:37 into the second period. Nick Backstrom was called for a very touchy interference call, setting up the Rags with their third power play opportunity of the night. The Rangers took full advantage, as a big slap shot from Brad Richards from the point was tipped by Benoit Pouliot, who slipped behind John Carlson at the top of the crease.

Despite being dominated for much of the second period, the Caps escaped with a one-goal lead. With just 1:05 remaining in the period, and the Caps getting absolutely housed by the Rangers forecheck, Steve Oleksy was able to bump the puck up along the boards and Ryan McDonagh was unable to corral it. Backstrom picked up the loose puck, skated in on the right wing and snapped a shot low-blocker side to beat Talbot and give the Caps the least deserved lead in all of hockey.

How badly did the Rangers own the second period? By the end of the frame, they held a 50-36 shot advantage — including 17-7 in shots on goal — with three shots on goal against coming in the 1:08 immediately preceding the Backstrom goal.

That lead didn’t last. Just 17 seconds into the third period, and with the Caps on a power play, Ryan McDonagh sprung Carl Hagelin, and Hagelin beat Grubauer 5-hole to knot the game at two.

But Fehr, who had a goal waived off earlier in the game, came through four-on-four to break the tie and the Caps nervously held on to secure the two points.

The Caps play Sunday at 5:00 pm ET when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Washington Capitals Game 30 Recap: Capitals tromp Rangers 4-1; Grubauer earns first career win

Mikhail Grabovski scores on Henrik Lundqvist on his his penalty shot in the second period of Sunday's game at MSG.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Mikhail Grabovski scores on Henrik Lundqvist on his penalty shot in the second period of Sunday’s game at MSG. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After soundly whipping the Nashville Predators 5-2 Saturday night, the Washington Capitals hoped to build off that performance against the New York Rangers, and build they did, establishing a 3-0 lead in the second period that the Rangers couldn’t overcome. Caps win 4-1.

After a scoreless first period, Jason Chimera whacked in a Martin Erat spinaround shot that left Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist sprawling on his back in the crease to give the Caps a 1-0 lead. Until then, Lundqvist hadn’t allowed a Capitals goal in 202 minutes, dating back to game 6 of the 2013 playoffs.

Less than 30 seconds later, the Capitals scored on Lundqvist again. This time, it was Steve Oleksy’s goal, his first of the season, assisted by Jay Beagle. Oleksy returned to the lineup against New York after being a healthy scratch for the last 7 games.

To pile on, Mikhail Grabovski was hooked by Ryan McDonagh on a breakaway, and earned a penalty shot. Grabovski went with a slapshot instead of a fancy move, which went top shelf on Lundqvist. The Caps led 3-0 by the end of the second period.

Nate Schmidt slapped home his second goal of the season, which appeared to deflect off Eric Fehr’s stick. The scoresheet credited Fehr with the goal at one point, but most recently has it as Schmidt’s goal. Either way, it was icing on the cake for the Caps, who played one of their best games of the season against a tough New York Rangers team.

Rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who is serving as Braden Holtby’s backup while Michal Neuvirth recovers from an ankle injury, stopped 30 of 31 shots in his second career NHL start.

The Capitals have the day off Monday before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center on Tuesday, December 10.

Caps Quick Takes: Game 7 vs. Rangers

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Washington Capitals were satisfied to loft shots from the perimeter against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. The Rangers outworked the Caps and got a couple of greasy goals en route to a 2-0 win over the Caps in D.C. Yes, it’s the same story we’ve been writing about for the last couple of seasons. When the Caps face a grind-it-out team they usually end up looking out of sorts, lacking hustle and effort, and more often than not end up on the losing side of the ice. The Caps (2-5-0) wasted an opportunity to kick the injured and struggling Rangers while they were down.

1) The Rangers entered this game as one of the worst defensive teams in hockey. People were questioning Henrik Lundqvist’s near future openly in the press. The Rags defense was having much difficulty switching from a zone-based system to more man-to-man with the change in coaching from John Tortorella to Alain Vingeault. So what happens? The Rangers come in here an intimidate the Caps just like they did last spring, forcing the Caps to take poor shots and mostly knock them down before they ever reach The King. Caps were outshot 36-22 and had another 22 shots blocked. That’s being satisfied with taking crappy shots from the perimeter, and no one will beat the Rangers doing that.

2) The Caps won the overall faceoff battle, 37-31, but you certainly wouldn’t have known it by the possession stats. The Rangers dominated the Caps in offensive zone possession, especially in the second period, where it looked like New York could do anything they wanted in the Caps end. Especially brutal was the sequence that led to the Rangers second goal. Adam Oates had John Carlson paired with Alexander Urbom and sent out the 90-19-8 line to accompany them. Trapped in their own end for 1:35, the defensemen finally ran out of gas and both Carlson and Urbom were beaten by their assignments for the second goal. Where were the forwards helping out on defense? LOL.

3) Martin Erat: 6:20 TOI, including 1:16 short-handed, with an average shift of 0:38. That is called wasting an asset, and expensive one at that, both in salary and in cost to trade for.

4) Troy Brouwer made a lot of noise the other night calling out his teammates for lousy passes. We can only assume he lumped himself in there, and should by all rights admonish himself again following this contest. On the play that led to Ovechkin having to take a penalty on a short-handed breakaway, Brouwer tried a blind back-pass from the low slot that led to the Rangers odd-man rush the other way. Later in the game, unpressured in the middle of the ice, his pass in the neutral zone was behind Eric Fehr by a good three feet, leading to another offensive-zone possession by New York. On another topic, I totally think his collision with Derek Stepan was unintentional. Looking at the replay, he didn’t appear to have any idea Stepan was in his path he was so intently concentrating on getting to the bench.

5) Silver lining time? Braden Holtby was very good, except whiffing with the glove hand on the Rangers first goal. He got a very good look at John Moore’s soft wrister and was square to the puck. He tried to make a snap-catch instead of letting the puck get to him and he simply whiffed on it. Other than that, he was rock-solid. Perhaps playing in front of Kevin Lowe (part of Canada’s Olympic management team and Edmonton’s President of Hockey Operations) had something to do with his concentration level. Oh, did you hear the Oilers have interest in Michal Neuvirth?

The Caps are off until Saturday, when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-0, tied with Caps at 4 points in Metro Division). I’m sure the coaching staff will have plenty so say this week in practice, but the biggest changes need to come from within. Oh. and maybe moving Erat up a line or two (or three).

Washington Capitals Game 7 Recap: Caps shut out by Rangers 2-0

Almost six months ago to the day, the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers locked horns for game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on May 13, 2013. The Rangers thrashed the Capitals 5-0 to move on to the next round. The Rangers blanked the Capitals once again, winning 2-0, and outshooting the Capitals 36-22.

“We have to take care of our own end better,” Adam Oates said after the game. “We’ve mentioned it lately and you know what, we do – we need to play better in our own end. Obviously, we want to score. We want to get down the ice, but until we cross the blue line, we can’t.”

The Alain Vigneault era Rangers have had a rough start to their season, much like the Caps. They were blown out by the San Jose Sharks 9-2 last week and lost 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. 1-4 coming into Wednesday night’s game, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they had a little something to prove, especially considering the last time the Rangers faced the Capitals at Verizon Center.

The Capitals got off to a slightly better start than Monday against Edmonton, but only registered two shots on goal by the halfway mark of the first period. A 55-second 5-on-3 opportunity and remaining power play helped them add a few, but they still ended the period with just eight shots on goal to the Rangers 11. The game remained tied at 0-0.

“We had a couple of good chances,” Oates said about the 5-on-3. “Sometimes you get a little too cute.”

Vigneault cited the 5-on-3 as a crucial segment of the game as well. “It’s one thing that we had talked about prior to the game was against that power play and how we were going to handle it, and to go down 5-on-3 and have those couple of nice saves from [Lundqvist], it sort of helped us get a little momentum after that and we took it from there.”

Tom Wilson, who is at a bit of a crossroads before the Capitals embark on a 10-day Canadian road trip on the 22nd, dropped the gloves with Rangers defenseman Justin Falk with two minutes left in the first period. He’s got fire in his belly, but he’s only playing six minutes a night. The Capitals have to decide if six minutes a game are worth burning a year of his entry-level contract, or if he’d be better off playing in the OHL.

Not shooting the puck equals lots of not-goals, and the Capitals once again found that out. They went five minutes without a shot attempt in the second period and allowed 15 unanswered attempts in their own end during that time.

It paid off – for the Rangers – who scored during a 4-on-4 and the remaining power play to lead the game 2-0 in less than two minutes. The Rangers outshot the Capitals 21-6 in the second period, and it didn’t help the Capitals that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had probably his best game of the season, turning away whatever meager rubber was thrown his way to blank the Capitals, who haven’t scored a goal against the Rangers since Game 5 of the ECQF in May.

NEXT GAME:  Saturday, 10/19, Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center

FIRST TAKE, GAME 7: Rangers snuff out Caps offense and dismiss them from playoffs

The Washington Capitals fell to 3-9 all time in Game 7s, 2-7 at home, as the New York Rangers withstood a great first period by the Caps, then took a stranglehold on the game, scoring twice in the second and twice in the third to beat the Caps 5-0. Once the power play expired at the start of the second period, you could see the Caps completely deflate and the Rangers jumped allover them, using their lesser talented players to outwork — and eventually outscore — the Caps.

It was, quite obviously, the second year in a row the Rangers dismissed the Caps from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a Game 7.

– The Caps dominated the first period everywhere but the scoreboard, holding a 32-16 advantage in shot attempts. Only 13 of the 32 attempts made their way on goal though, as the Caps had 13 attempts blocked and another six misfires.

– Ovechkin made his presence felt physically, if not on the scoresheet, with seven hits in the first, including several dramatic open-ice hits. He also pinned Ryan McDonough along the boards with a devastating hit, causing blood to leak from McDonough’s right cheek and forehead. The defenseman had to go to the locker room to get repairs but returned to the ice.

– 19-year old rookie Tom Wilson had a strong period, getting into good position for two shot attempts.

– The goal by the Rangers’ Aaron Asham came as a result of Mike Green getting caught in the Rangers’ end after a rush, but it’s a shot Braden Holtby should have had. You can’t let Asham beat you on a snap shot from the top of the circle, but Holtby whiffed with his glove hand, which made it a 1-0 game after 20 minutes.

– The second period was an unmitigated disaster for the Caps. As soon as the power play that carried over from the first expired, you could see the wind escape from the sails. Both New York goals came as a result of the Caps simply not being able to control the puck in their defensive end, wilting to the relentless forecheck of the Rangers’ lesser-known players. The second goal, Eminger to Dorsett to Pyatt, might be the least offensively gifted goal in a Game 7 in NHL history. There’s no excuse.

– Ribeiro, Fehr and Brouwer was the forward line on the ice for both New York goals in the second period.

– If you give up goals to Aaron Asham (2 goals in 27 games), Taylor Pyatt (6 goals in 48 games) and Mike Del Zotto (3 goals in 46 games), you kind of deserve to lose.

– I’m shocked Holtby didn’t get lifted after the third goal. Oates had every right. His team needed a jump, Holtby wasn’t tracking the puck well, and a 3-0 hole in Game 7 is a dramatic enough excuse. But Oates stuck with Holtby, reinforcing Holtby’s unquestioned status as the No. 1 goalie in town — for better or worse.

– I don’t even know how to describe the New York goal 13 seconds into the fourth period. Erskine way too nonchalant with a soft pass up the boards. No speed to get back. Holtby might as well not even had a stick as he was flailing it about purposeless, allowing a soft backhand to beat him with what was a three-goal deficit. Pathetic.

– To show the big difference between these two teams, the Caps played most of the third period at half-speed, just trying to get the game to end, while the Rangers were still using their bodies to block shots on the Caps’ late power play. It’s in their DNA — both ways.

We’ll have a season recap soon. But for now, hang in there Caps fans. They did some good things this season. Adam Oates looks like a keeper. And Ovi rediscovered who he was. The change of division next season will add to the excitement, even if it seems so far away.

Washington Capitals Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 6 Recap: Lundqvist shuts out Caps to force Game 7

If you’re a fan of the Washington Capitals, you had to have figured it would come to this.

The New York Rangers — facing elimination in their own building — drew five power plays to the Caps none, their world class goalie played up to his legendary status, and one bad bounce — a deflection off his own defenseman — slipped past Braden Holtby, and the Caps fell to the Rangers 1-0, forcing an all-deciding Game 7 at Verizon Center Monday night at 8:00 pm.

Derick Brassard, a thorn in the Caps side all series long, was credited with the lone tally of the game — a slap shot from the high slot that deflected off Steve Oleksy’s glove at the top of the crease and caromed past Holtby midway through the second period.

The Capitals did not play particularly well for long stretches of this game, had trouble mounting a consistent offensive attack and, at times, had trouble getting out of their own end due to New York’s relentless forecheck.

But the story of this game, unfortunately, was the officiating. Referees Brad Watson and Marc Joannette called five penalties in the game before the final horn, and all five were against the Capitals. Two of the calls — against Jack Hillen and Mike Green — were for retaliation after a Rangers player instigated the rough play. Another — Eric Fehr’s elbowing call — seemed to actually come as a result of the Ranger player’s own gloved hand making contact with his face — if at all — after the two players collided shoulder-to-shoulder.

There have been two instances in this Stanley Cup Playoffs of the home team receiving all of the power play opportunities in the game. Watson and Joannette were the referees in both contests. That the Caps were ale to kill all five penalties is a testament to their renewed proficiency in the penalty kill — and the Rangers ineptness on their power play. New York is just 2-for-26 with a man advantage in the six games in this series alone. In contrast, the Caps have been successful on three of the 14 power play opportunities they’ve had in the series.

None of this should come to make light of the job Henrik Lundqvist — or Braden Holtby, for that matter — did between the pipes in Game 6. Both goalies were outstanding; Holtby early during the multiple power plays the Rangers had in the first period and Lundqvist particularly late, when the hard-charging Caps had the better of play 5-on-5, and then 6-on-5 in the last 80 seconds of the game when coach Adam Oates pulled Holtby for the extra skater.

It should also not be disregarded that the Capitals should have figured out a way to play physical without taking the retaliatory penalties. If the Caps fail to hold home ice advantage Monday night and lose this series, the biggest story from the Capitals side will have been their inability to stay out of the penalty box the entire series.

That being said, the Caps played a man down for long chunks of Game 6 and it disrupted their line combinations, offensive attack and game plan.

The Rangers were awarded their first power play at 10:01 of the first period. Replays showed Jack Hillen received a blatant and intentional “chicken wing” style elbow to the side of his head by Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan. Hillen responded with a hard cross-check to Callahan’s chest and was whistled for roughing. The call itself is dubious, as NBC’s color analyst Pierre McGuire described it: “I’m not sure that’s a penalty. I think that’s more of a ‘Captain of the New York Rangers on home ice against a young man out of Colorado College in Jack Hillen’ and that’s one of those where the veteran got more of a break.”

NBC never showed the play that instigated Hillen to retaliate though. However, TSN’s coverage did pick up the elbow, and you can make up your own mind to the nature of it.

Six minutes later, the delay-of-game bug bit the Caps again, with this time normally reliable defenseman Karl Alzner guilty of the infraction. As the Caps were in the process of killing that penalty, Eric Fehr and Brassard came together in front of the Rangers bench. Both players braced for impact and they collided shoulder to shoulder. Fehr, the taller player, followed through and got the better of the impact, with Brassard flailing wildly to the ice. But upon closer inspection, it appears that Fehr’s elbow never did make contact with Brassard and if anything, Brassard’s own gloved hand nicked him as he reeled from the collision.

Regardless, the dramatic fall that Brassard took — along with the heavy hit Fehr doled out — resulted in a 5-on-3 situation (the third of the series, all favoring the Rangers) as the frame wound down, which the Caps killed off deftly.

The third period saw two more calls go the home team’s way. On the first, Joel Ward was called for cross-checking a Rangers back-checking forward into the Rangers goal. Both players had speed and Ward got a good piece of contact. Had the hit happened at open ice, I don’t think anyone would have thought about it, but the Rangers forward went careening into the goal, knocking it from its moorings. Again, the hit was shoulder-to-shoulder, but Ward got sent off for a cross-check.

The final infraction came against Mike Green for a cross-check. He earned it, going two-handed across Derek Dorsett’s mouth, drawing blood on his top and bottom of Dorsett’s mouth. But the play that precipitated the retaliation this time was Dorsett’s check on Green — a dangerous “slew-foot” type maneuver — that so incensed Green to go after Dorsett. After the game, several Capitals’ players talked about what they perceived as the dirty play by Dorsett, a lesser-skilled player on the ice primarily to instigate and “stir the pot.”

Via Capitals Insider: “The one that we all had a problem with, obviously, was the one on Greenie. That’s a play that should be reviewed,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “It’s only because Greenie’s world-class, one of the best skaters in the world, that he didn’t fall on his back there. It’s a dirty slew foot and we’re short-handed from it. That’s the only one I think any of us have a problem with.”

As a testament to the physical nature of play in the series, and the escalating ugliness throughout Game 6, after the final horn sounded all 11 skaters on the ice came together in the corner to the right of Lundqvist and engaged in some more extra-curricular activity, which ended up with Green on the ice prone, trying to protect his head. Both teams were assessed two roughing minors: John Carlson and Troy Brouwer for Washington, and Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi for New York.

All of this sets up what should be a tense, physical, dramatic Game 7 Monday night at Verizon Center at 8:00 pm. Neither team has a particularly good history in this situation. The Caps are 2-6 at home in Game 7s, the Rangers are 0-5 on road in Game 7s. One organization’s tortured fan base is going to be able to cling to a ridiculous “curse” after Monday night, but you can rest assured those numbers mean nothing to the players.

FIRST TAKE, GAME 6: Lundqvist stymies Caps; Game 7 Monday

Henrik Lundqvist stopped every shot that made it through to him, and the New York Rangers escaped Game 6 with a 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals. The Caps were hindered all day by killing penalties, as the refs awarded five power plays to the Rangers but none to the Caps. Regardless, the Caps weren’t able to find an answer for Lundqvist, forcing the seemingly inevitable Game 7 at Verizon Center.

– Though outshot (due to accumulation of power plays for the Rangers) in the first period, the Caps had the much better of play at 5-on-5, penning the Rangers in there zone on multiple occasions.

– Caps had better of play in a rough first 20 minutes, but they were unable to find a way to play physical without going to the box. Both Hillen and Fehr penalties came when physical confrontation was 50/50. Caps lost the whistle in both those occasions at MSG. On the Fehr penalty, it looked like the hit was shoulder to shoulder and the Rangers player hit himself in the mouth with is own elbow.

– Ovechkin lazy on defense? Not in the first period, where on back-to-back shifts he filled the goal crease during a scrum on the far post, then blocked two shots in a sequence when Caps were forced to deal with defensive zone face-off after an icing.

– Obviously, a huge penalty kill at the end of the period with Alzner off for delay of game and then Fehr joining him on the roughing. Killing almost a minute of 5-on-3 then the rest of it is a big boost of morale.

– Rangers scored on a deflection off Oleksy’s glove on a shot from the high slot by Brassard. On the replay, it looked like Holtby had it tracked all the way until the last second deflection. Looked like Oleksy tried to punch at it and just didn’t get enough of it to push it off goal.

– Energized by their tally, Rangers really had the best of play in the last eight minutes of the second. Holtby made several huge saves, including a sequence when he lost his stick, to keep the Caps within one goal. Ovechkin had a couple of chances in the frame only to be denied by Lundqvist.

– The third period was furious, including about 80 seconds of 6-on-4, but Lundqvist was equal every time the Caps got one through.

– Hard to believe the Rangers didn’t commit a penalty in Game 6, but they were not called for one, while getting the benefit of five power plays. Caps are fortunate that the Rangers power play is inept (0-for-5 in the game, 2-for-26 in the series), but fighting off power plays will take its toll — and keep Alex Ovechkin off the ice.

Game 7 is Monday night at 8:00 pm at Verizon Center.

FIRST TAKE, GAME 5: Ribeiro goes to the bakery to win Game 5 in overtime

What, you expected something else in Game 5? No chance, as a crummy start turned into a dominant performance by the Washington Capitals, only to see them frustrated time and again by Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. But the Caps had the last laugh, as Mike Ribeiro swept home a rebound in overtime to give the Caps a three games to two lead in the Quarterfinals matchup.

– The Caps could not have played worse in the first period. Outshot 10-8, and only a flurry at the end of the frame made it that close. But the chances were heavily in the Rangers favor. Bad penalties, defensive breakdowns and spotty puck possession. A total breakdown by John Erskine and Nick Backstrom allowed Brian Boyle to drift to the top of the crease to bang home a nice pass from Derek Brassard just 53 second into the game. Brassard has been the Rangers best offensive player in the series.

– Jason Chimera was laying the leather in the first couple of periods, and the hit he laid on Ryan Clowe behind the Caps net — which he received two minutes for roughing — knocked Clowe from the game. He skated one more shift and was done for the night.

– The Caps finally got a power play in the second period after Boyle whacked Mike Ribeiro across the back of the legs, and they made the Rangers pay for it. A beautiful tic-tac-toe from Backstrom-to-Johansson-to-Ward in the slot made it 1-1 at 7:44.

– Based on the Rangers having four power plays to the Caps’ one after two periods, Matt Hendricks led both teams with seven blocked shots after two.

– Through two periods, the Caps held a 40-19 advantage in shots attempts in 5-on-5 play, but the SOG total was 15-14 Rangers.

– The Caps owned the third period. Owned. But no goal.

– Ribeiro went to the right spot for the game-winner, earning that position with some uncharacteristic physical play. Eric Fehr did a great job keeping the play alive. He had a great game. Good work with Alzner getting the puck toward the net as well. Good things come when you shoot the puck.

– Ribs was a monster in the face-off circle, going 19-for-27 (70%) overall and 9-for-10 in the defensive zone. Monster.

Game 6 is Sunday at 4:30 pm at Madison Square Garden. Make sure you take your heart medicine between now and then.

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