It was Matinee Saturday when the Washington Capitals hosted the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena. It did not start well, and it did not end well. The Caps looked equal parts lethargic and indifferent in dropping a 4-1 decision to the Rangers, ending their two-game winning streak.
The game started in relatively quiet fashion, and not just a product of having no fans in the arena. The teams split four shots on goal in the first seven minutes, but the Caps went on a power play at the 7:03 mark when Libor Hajek went off for high sticking. The Caps failed to convert, recording one shot on goal (Alex Ovechkin) over the two minutes.
It was the Rangers’ turn on the power play at 8:05, when Richard Panik was called for roughing. The Rangers did not covert, but they got another chance in short order when Lars Eller was sent off for hooking at 14:05. This one they converted. Chris Kreider pounced on a rebound from the top of the crease and buried the chance at 14:57 of the period. It was the only scoring of the fast-moving period.
-- Washington out-shot the Rangers, 8-6, and they out-attempted them, 16-13. Alex Ovechkin and Nic Dowd led the team with three shots apiece.
-- John Carlson logged 8:35 in ice time in the period to lead the Caps. His 6:48 in even strength ice time led all players for both teams.
-- Evgeny Kuznetsov was 1-for-7 (14.3 percent) on first period faceoffs. The rest of the Caps were 6-for-10.
-- Conor Sheary and Richard Panik each had only four shifts in the first period.
It was another quiet opening to the period, with no scoring and little in the way in shots on goal for both teams, over the first eight minutes. The Caps were awarded a power play 8:25 into the period when Julien Gauthier went off for tripping. The Caps did not score, and the Rangers held on to their slim lead until Garnet Hathaway was sent off for the Caps on a tripping call at 13:25 of the period.
The Caps had a chance to get a shorthanded goal on the ensuing Ranger power play, but Nic Dowd’s chance pinged the crossbar, and the teams played on. New York did not score on their power play.
The Rangers did score late in the period, though. Alexis Lafreniere scored at 17:44 when he was left at the top of the crease by a lackadaisical Caps defense, settle a pass out of the corner by Artemi Panarin, and backhanded the puck around goalie Vitek Vanecek’s left pad. Ryan Strome made it 3-0 just 59 seconds later, firing from long range through a screen.
Washington got one back with just 38.2 second left in the period, skating through the left wing circle and snapping a shot under goalie Igor Shesterkin’s glove from low in the circle. That would end the scoring in the second period.
-- New York out-shot the Caps, 13-11, in the period, while the Caps out-attempted the Rangers, 21-20.
-- Nick Jensen, Jakub Vrana, Nic Dowd, and Alex Ovechkin each had three shots on goal through 40 minutes; John Carlson led the club with six shot attempts.
-- The Caps were 6-for-14 on offensive zone draws through 40 minutes, but Lars Eller was 3-for-3 of that result.
The Rangers got a chance to add to their lead early in the period when Tom Wilson was sent off for elbowing at the 36-second mark. The Caps held the Rangers off the board on the power play to keep the game competitive. And then they got a chance to carve into the Rangers’ lead when Brendan Smith was sent off for roughing at 4:42 of the period. For the third time in this game, the Caps came up empty with the man advantage, failing to record a shot on the power play.
The Rangers seemed satisfied with the two-goal lead, and the way the Caps were playing it seemed well-founded. But when Anthony Bitetto went off at 15:44 on a holding call, and the Caps pulled Vanecek for a 6-on-4 advantage, there was a gliimmer of hope. That was extinguished when Mika Zibanejad scored a shorthanded empty netter to make it 4-1. That would be the end of the disappointing afternoon for the home team.
-- The Caps managed to let a couple of Rangers crawl a few steps out of their offensive rut. Alexis Lafreniere and Mika Zibanejad, of whom much is expected, pointed only their second goals of the season.
-- When Lafreniere scored, his score sheet line had no shots on goal and one other mark, a credited hit.
-- Nicklas Backstrom is now a liability on faceoffs. He was 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) in this game, and over his last five games he is 15-for-61 (24.6 percent).
-- Odd thing…the Caps had one point in this game – Orlov’s goal, unassisted.
-- Every skater had a rating other than even for the Caps, 13 with minus ratings, five with plus ratings. Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and John Carlson each were a minus-2.
-- Washington had a 28-24 lead in shots on goal for the game and a 54-46 edge in shot attempts.
-- Jakub Vrana led the Caps with five shots on goal; Vrana and John Carlson led the club with six shot attempts.
-- Brenden Dillon led Washington with four credited hits.
-- Carlson led the club with 25:16 in ice time; Garnet Hathaway had only 10:15 at the other end.
-- This was the fifth time in nine home games that the Caps allowed four or more goals.
In the end…
It sucked. And it sucked double because things can get away from the Caps quickly given their upcoming schedule. The next 11 games include four against the Devils (a team with a better points percentage than the Caps), two with Pittsburgh, two with Boston, and three against Philadelphia. This could be their season, and losing to a weaker Ranger team was no way to lead into this part of the schedule.