Sunday, January 17, 2016

Washington Capitals Recap: A TWO-Point Night: Capitals 5 - Rangers 2

The Washington Capitals got back on the winning path on Sunday night when they defeated the New York Rangers, 5-2, at Verizon Center.  The win gave the Caps 71 standings points for the season, the first team in the NHL to reach that mark.

It was the Rangers starting the scoring in this one, getting a goal from Cap Killer Chris Kreider in the 11th minute of the first period, a re-direction of a shot from the left point by Ryan McDonagh.  The Caps tied it with just under two minutes left in the period on a power play.  A cross-ice pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov to Alex Ovechkin was deadened by Marc Staal Jesper Fast, but not enough to keep the puck from getting to its intended recipient.  It prevented Ovechkin from firing a one-timer from the left wing circle, but he still had time to settle the puck, step around Dylan McIlrath, and fire a wrist shot through the pads of goalie Antti Raanta.

The Caps opened up a lead in the second period with a pair of goals just 62 seconds apart.  Marcus Johansson got the first one on another power play.  It was the product of a subtle change in the Caps’ deployment on the man advantage.  With teams cheating a defender to Ovechkin’s side of the ice to prevent a pass for a one-timer, the Caps moved Johansson from the goal line extended from the goalie’s left to the top of the crease, forcing defenders to play honest to prevent a feed in front.  The Rangers could not prevent that, though, as Nicklas Backstrom threaded a fine pass to the top of the Rangers’ crease where Johansson redirected it past Raanta to make it 2-1.

Just 1:02 later it was 3-1.  Justin Williams took a pass at the Ranger blue line and skated into the offensive zone.  He left the puck for Andre Burakovsky in the right wing circle, and Burakovsky kicked it out to Taylor Chorney.  From the top of the zone Chorney fired a wrist shot that hit Justin Williams on the way through and eluded Raanta to put the Rangers in a two-goal hole.

The Rangers got back within a goal late in the second period when Kreider scored his second of the game, picking up a loose puck between the hash marks, spinning, and wristing it past goalie Braden Holtby.

The Rangers would get no closer.  Justin Williams scored his second goal of the game less than five minutes into the third period to restore the Caps’ two-goal lead.  The Rangers’ J.T. Miller coughed up the puck on a ghastly turnover in his own end, throwing the puck from the wall at the players’ bench through the middle of the ice to no one in particular.  Andre Burakovsky collected the puck and fed Evgeny Kuznetsov skating into the left wing circle.  Kuznetsov passed it in front, and Williams redirected it past Raanta’s left pad at the 4:51 mark to make it 4-2.

Williams ended the scoring with an empty-net hat-trick goal with 1:51 left.  Settling a loose puck at the red line, Williams turned and fired, the puck sliding past the stick of Dan Boyle, off the toe of Derick Brassard, and into the net to give the Caps their final 5-2 margin.

Other stuff…

-- In the last eight periods of hockey between these teams, the Caps have outscored the Rangers, 15-5.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s goal made it nine straight games with a goal against the Rangers, 11 overall.  The odd part of that is…no assists in any of those nine games.

-- Just 14 seconds after Chris Kreider’s second goal for the Rangers, Braden Holtby took himself out of the game.  He was reported to be suffering from symptoms of dehydration.

-- With the hat trick, his first as a Capital and second of his career (October 16, 2006 with Carolina in a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay), Williams took over the number two spot in goal scoring for the Caps (16) behind Alex Ovechkin (27).

-- Andre Burakovsky had two assists…again.  That makes three games in his last four that he recorded two assists.

-- Depending on which official source you look at, Evgeny Kuznetsov had either two assists (on the league’s event summary for this game) or three in this game (on his player page).  If it was three, that makes two games in his last three that Kuznetsov had three points.  And, he tied Nicklas Backstrom for the team lead in helpers with 29.

-- With two power plays in four chances, the Caps bounced back after consecutive games without a power play goal.  They are 8-for-27 since January 1st (29.6 percent).

-- Philipp Grubauer came in to spell Braden Holtby late in the second period and played the final 32:18 of the game, stopping all 11 shots he faced.  In his last six appearances, three of which involved his replacing Holtby in-game, he stopped 126 of 132 shots, a .955 save percentage.  He did not get the win, but if hockey had “saves” as they do in baseball, he would have one for this game.

-- Anybody have Tom Wilson leading the team with six shot attempts (three on goal, two blocked, one miss)?  No, I didn’t either.

-- The Caps dominated the faceoff circle, winning 42 of 71 draws (59.2 percent).  Over their last four games the Caps have won 56.7 percent of their faceoffs (143-for-252).

In the end…

What can you say about this team at the moment?  Their top defensive pair out, missing a regular forward, their goalie going out mid-game in distress, and they still win going away.  Sure, that was Antti Raanta in net for the Rangers, not Henrik Lundqvist, but the Caps did not let up in facing the Rangers’ back-up.  For the 11th time in 45 games the Caps scored five or more goals (tied for first in the league); for the 29th time they allowed two or fewer (tops in the league).  In doing both they recorded their 14th win by three or more goals, tops in the league, and they are now 55-21-6 in their last 82 games.  You have to like the way this team is playing.

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