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