After a rough loss against the other New York team, the Islanders, on Saturday, the Caps returned home to take on the New York Rangers but were not able to spring forward in the standings losing 4-1.
The New York Rangers decided to take a conservative approach and went with their backup netminder Marty Biron between the pipes for Sunday’s matinee. Despite his steady presence in the backup role, he was fooled early on a shot from the point just two minutes into the game. Capitals defenseman Steve Olesky fired a shot from the right point and passed Biron to give the Capitals an early 1-0 and gave Olesky his first NHL goal.
It was all downhill from their though for Washington.
“You know, yeah but I don’t want to keep standing here and giving [the answer that we are playing well] but we did some good things and we have figure out ways to do it for 60 minutes,” Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said. “You can’t let the refereeing affect your game, we have to be able to play and play for 60-minutes.”
Later, Derek Stepan clearly forgot he was not the most skilled player on the Rangers when he knotted the game up at one with a little over eight minutes to go in the period. Capitals netminder Braden Holtby came out of his crease and drifted to the right side of the net as New York rushed up the ice. Stepan flew down behind the right side of the net and flipped it off of Holtby’s skate from behind the goal line and into the net on a pretty play that gave the visiting Rangers fans life.
Midway through the second period the Caps got caught in their own zone and ended up drawing two penalties in a confusing series of events. On the delayed penalty, the Rangers’ Brian Boyle potted his first of the year to give New York a 2-1 lead. The delayed penalty was on Ovechkin who then took another on the same shift, giving the Rangers an immediate power play following the goal. Rick Nash went ahead and fired one from below the right faceoff circle that was tipped by Ryan Callahan to make it 3-1 just seconds later and prompted the Caps to switch to Michal Neuvirth between the pipes.
“I don’t know, my mindset is I want to finish every game, I don’t really think about [being surprised about getting pulled,]” Holtby said. “If that is in the coach’s best interest to do, I respect his decision, but I’d like to battle through every challenge I’m faced with.”
The irony of Ovi’s two minors was lost on no one as it comes hours after Ovechkin said he wanted the refs to “respect” the Caps. When asked about whether or not the officials were targeting Ovi based on his comments, Oates said he didn’t think it had anything to do with it, but that they would talk about comments like that.
“Yeah, you know we’ve talked about the unsportsmanlikes and what we’ve done,” Oates said. “We have to abide by the rules.”
Queue the Capitals’ five-on-three.
New York took two penalties in the closing minutes of the second period, one for holding and another for tripping. It gave the Caps a chance to add two goals and tie the game with a two-man advantage and gain some momentum. Despite nearly scoring a few times and generating some juicy chances, the Rangers’ PK kept the Caps in check and the period ended with no change.
The Caps would not threaten again on the power play at the beginning of the period but the Rangers killed it off quickly. With few stoppages in the third period, the play clipped along creating for a fast moving third period. New York added on another when Brad Richards knocked a wrist shot passed Neuvirth to finish the scoring.
Washington’s chances of making one of the coveted eight playoff spots now continues to slip away as it becomes clear they are most likely going to need to win the Southeast Division to make the postseason tournament. They now wait to welcome in the Carolina Hurricanes to the Verizon Center on Tuesday.