The Caps had not scored a goal on the New York Rangers goaltender in 180 minutes coming into tonight’s contest at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist tacked on another 20 minutes and change for good measure, but the Caps finally broke through and defeated the Rangers, 4-1.
Lundqvist carried his scoreless minutes streak against the Caps into the second period of this game, but not for too long. In the third minute of the period a Steve Oleksy drive was deadened in front of the Rangers’ net by defenseman John Moore, but the puck was left loose amid a pile of bodies. Martin Erat took a swipe at it, and Lundqvist got his left pad on the shot. But in his effort to make the save Lundqvist was sprawled on his back with the puck lying to his left. Jason Chimera was first to it and stuffed it into the net just before he was cleaned out by Justin Falk, giving the Caps the 1-0 lead and ending Lundqvist’s shutout streak against the Caps at 202:28.
Scoring seemed to agree with the Caps, because they did it again less than half a minute later. Jay Beagle won a race to a loose puck in the corner to Lundqvist’s right. He threw the puck out to the top of the zone where Steve Oleksy was camped. Oleksy let fly with a harmless looking wrist shot that snaked its way past several bodies and over the left shoulder of Lundqvist to give the Caps a 2-0 lead.
Late in the period Derick Brassard carried the puck into the Caps’ end, and after coming to a full stop he left the puck for defenseman Ryan McDonagh. When McDonagh tried to return the puck to Brassard, the pass was too long, and Brassard could only deflect the puck to Troy Brouwer. As Brouwer collected the puck, Mikhail Grabovski anticipated the play and broke out between McDonagh and Brassard. Brouwer led Grabovski perfectly with a lead pass, and Grabovski was in alone on Lundqvist. McDonagh hooked Grabovski as he was preparing to shoot, and Grabovski’s hindered attempt was turned aside by Lundqvist. But when play was stopped after continuing for several seconds, a penalty shot was signaled. Grabovski wasted little time. He skated in, wound up, and drilled a slap shot from the hash marks that flew high over Lundqvist’s glove and under the crossbar to put the Caps up, 3-0.
The Caps made it 4-0 late in the third period by following up on a narrowly missed chance. It started when Troy Brouwer rang a shot off the post off a feed from Grabovski at the right wing faceoff dot. The puck made its way all the way to the Ranger blue line where Nate Schmidt collected it, stepped up and let fly with a shot that beat Lundqvist through his pads.
The Rangers spoiled the shutout barely a minute later when Benoit Pouliot deflected a Michael Del Zotto drive down and past goalie Philipp Grubauer, but it was much too little, much too late for the Blueshirts as the Caps finished things up with a 4-1 win.
-- Grubauer turned aside 30 of 31 shots to pick up his first NHL win. He was not called upon to make many difficult saves, but he was solid throughout in a difficult arena in which to play.
-- It was the third consecutive game in which a Capitals defenseman scored a goal, but just as important, it was the fourth straight game in which a Caps defenseman figured in the scoring. Over their last four games Caps defensemen have five goals and four assists.
-- The Caps managed the Rangers’ shot totals very well. Even though New York finished with 31 shots on goal, they had only 17 after two periods. The Caps had that total in the second period alone.
-- In the prognosto we noted one of the keys was to find shooting lanes. The Caps managed to get 64 percent of their shot attempts on net (36 of 56) and had only nine shots blocked. There seemed to be periods in which the Rangers would block nine shots in the recent past.
-- Another key was getting on rebounds (even though it was Lundqvist leaving them, not, as we assumed Cam Talbot). Jason Chimera did, and even Nate Schmidt’s goal was a long rebound of sorts, off a post.
-- Then there was balance. Once more, it was not just “The Ovie Show.” Alex Ovechkin was extremely active and dangerous, but he finished with what for him was a comparatively low shot attempt total (six attempts, four on goal). But four different Caps had goals, and six different Caps had points. Even Jay Beagle got into the scoring column with an assist.
-- In a nugget that strikes us as a bit odd, and perhaps a scoring fluke, the Caps were credited with 23 hits spread among 16 different skaters. No Cap finished with more than two, and only Mike Green and John Carlson were hitless.
-- For the fourth time in five games the Caps held an opponent to two or fewer power play opportunities. The Rangers had two, neither of which bore fruit. The Caps are 10-for-11 killing penalties over those five games (90.9 percent).
-- This was only the second time in 13 home games that the Rangers allowed more than 30 shots. They won the other instance, a 5-2 win over Vancouver back on November 30th.
-- This was the tenth time this season that the Caps recorded three goals in a game. They are 9-1-0 in those games, the only loss coming against Ottawa. They scored three first period goals in that game but lost, 6-4.
-- The Grabovski-Brouwer-Eric Fehr line was quite active. They had 11 of the Caps’ 56 shot attempts.
In the end…
The Caps played a nice, tight, efficient game. They have the ability to do this on a more sustained basis, and they need it on those nights when the top line doesn’t get points. The added highlight here is the activation of the defense, which has been featured often in the scoring lately. The Caps also played stand up hockey in their own end, letting Philipp Grubauer get a good look at the shots he faced and denying the Rangers opportunities otherwise. If not for another video-confirmed goal (someday the Caps will be on the good side of one of those calls), Grubauer would have had a shutout for his first NHL win. It was a good night all around for the Caps, who have now won both sides of a back-to-back set three times in five tries so far this season. It made for a nice weekend and a fine start to the week.