Thursday, February 24, 2022

A NO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 53: Rangers 4 - Capitals 1

The Washington Capitals faced the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden for the first time since the infamous matchup last May 5th when the two teams combined for 141 penalty minutes and Tom Wilson cemented the everlasting wrath of the Ranger faithful two days after a game in which the teams combined for only 32 penalty minutes but featured a donnybrook in the second period that involved Wilson and the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich.  Oh yeah, and there was also the T.J. Oshie hat trick in a 4-2 win over the Blueshirts in that last visit to MSG the day after his father passed away.  Oshie returned to the lineup in this game for the first time since January 15th, when he sustained an upper body injury that caused hm to miss 14 games.  Alas, the Caps were never in this contest and dropped a 4-1 decision in one of their most sluggish performances of the season.

First Period

For almost 13 minutes, the teams fought back and forth, but 12:57 into the game, the Rangers found pay dirt, Mika Zibanejad took a drop feed from Alexis Lafreniere and fired a shot from the right-wing circle between the glove and left pad of goalie Ilya Samsonov to give the Rangers the first lead of the game.  It would be the only goal of the period, but just before the horn sounded to end the frame, the Caps drew a penalty on Ryan Strome for tripping, giving the Caps a power play to start the second period.

-- Washington outshot the Rangers, 11-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 18-13.

-- Lars Eller and Connor McMichael led the team with two shots apiece; four Caps had two attempts – Eller, McMichael, Joe Snively, and Nick Jensen.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov was a perfect 4-for-4 on faceoffs in the period.

-- Nick Jensen led the Caps with 8:23 in ice time; Nic Dowd had just 2:47 in ice time and four shifts for the period.

Second Period

That Caps’ power play lasted 1:07 when Alex Ovechkin was sent off on a hooking penalty to even things up at 4-on-4.  Neither team registered a goal at 4-on-4, leaving the Rangers a power play.  Samsonov made a sparkling save on a redirect attempt by Ryan Strome late in the power play to keep the Caps from falling behind by a pair.  The Rangers did not convert on their abbreviated power play, and it remained a 1-0 game.

Samsonov made another great save, that being of the glove variety on Morgan Barron, which was followed up by a great save by Shesterkin on Garnet Hathaway on a breakaway.

The Caps earned their second power play of the game, when Chris Kreider took a high-sticking penalty at 14:59 of the period.  The Caps did not record a shot on goal on the man advantage, and the game moved on, still a 1-0 Rangers lead.

The Rangers doubled their lead in the 18th minute when Lafreniere tipped a shot by Ryan Lundgren past Samsonov at the 18:48 mark.  It would be how the period ended, but not before an identical replay of the first period at the end of this one when Strome took another tripping penalty just before the horn to end the period, sending the Caps to a power play to start the third period, perhaps a crucial one to get the Caps back in this game.

-- The teams split 18 shots for the period down the middle, nine apiece; the Caps out-attempting the Rangers, 18-14.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov was 5-for-6 on draws through two periods, as was Nic Dowd.

-- Connor McMichael led the Caps with three shots on goal through two periods; Alex Ovechkin and Justin Schultz had four shot attempts apiece.

-- Tom Wilson did not have a mark on his line of the score sheet through two periods.

Third Period

The Caps did not score on the power play to start the period, and shortly after that chance expired, they went a man short when Martin Fehervary went off for holding at 3:33 of the period.  The Caps killed the penalty and stayed within a pair of the Rangers.

Chris Kreider all but ended the competitive portion of the contest when the Caps could not clear the puck, it found it’s way to the crease, and when it squirted out to Samsonov’s right, Kreider jumped on it and snapped it into the open side of the net to make it 3-0 at the 6:57 mark.

And in the “let’s just add to the frustration” file, Shesterkin robbed Alex Ovechkin on a breakaway and smothered the puck against his jersey to prevent any rebound chance.

The Rangers made it 4-0 when they caught the Caps napping and broke out on a 2-on-1 break.  Kevin Rooney carried the puck into the offensive zone and fed Barclay Goodrow, who slipped a shot between Samonov’s pads at the 11:09 mark.

The Caps went to their fourth power play of the night at the 15:15 mark when Julien Gauthier tripped Garnet Hathaway as he was circling out from behind his net. The Caps went for the extra attacker, pulling Samsonov to make it a 6-on-4 man advantage.  Nevertheless, the Caps failed for a fourth time to convert with the man advantage.

The last bit of life the Caps displayed came shortly thereafter, Conor Sheary and Ryan Lindgren dropping the gloves, but the tussle was snuffed out in short order when the linesmen stepped in.  Both players were sent off for roughing and slashing penalties.

Alex Ovechkin ruined Shesterkin’s shutout bid when he redirected a feed from Evgeny Kuznetov from the top of the crease to make it 4-1 at the 18:58 mark.  That would end the scoring, ending the Caps’ road winning streak at five games.

Other stuff…

-- The Caps outshot the Rangers, 37-21 and out-attempted them, 54-38.

-- Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team with five shots apiece; Ovechkin had nine shot attempts after a slow start.

-- Tom Wilson finished the game with a single mark on his line of the score sheet, a shot on goal late in the third period.

-- The Caps had a 31-19 edge in faceoff wins, every Capital taking more than one draw finishing at 50 percent or better.

-- Nic Dowd and Matin Fehervary led the team with three credited hits apiece.  In what was anticipated to be a physical game, the teams combined for only 41 combined credited hits, the Rangers with the 24-17 edge.

-- The fourth line of Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Garnet Hathaway was the only line against which the Rangers did not score.

-- To no one’s surprise, John Carlson led the team in ice time with 23:05, but it was odd to see Justin Schultz on the top power play unit and not Carlson to start the third period.

-- No Capital finished the game with less than ten minutes of ice time, a bit of a rarity these days.  Hathaway had the lowest amount of ice time with 11:05.

-- Ovechkin’s goal, his 762nd of his career, brought him to within four of Jaromir Jagr for third place all-time in goal scoring.  Strangely enough, he and Jagr are tied in career points per game (1.11).

-- The loss broke a personal four-game winning streak on the road for Ilya Samsonov.and was the first time he allowed more than three goals in a road game since giving up four to St. Louis back on January 7th in a 5-1 loss.

In the end…

We are fond of saying that there are 20 games a team will win, no matter what, and there are 20 games they will lose, no matter what.  It is what they do with the other 40-odd games that make or break a season.  Well, this was not one of those 40-odd games.  The Caps were never in this one.  Whether it was rust from being off a week, T.J. Oshie trying to blend back into the lineup after missing 14 games, or sunspots, the Caps were never in this one.  Throw it in the trash, and move on to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon for the last of this four-game road journey.