|The Capitals fell flat on their faces...again. (Evan Vucci, AP)|
The Capitals generated good pressure on their first shift were rewarded with a power play just a minute into the game when Alex Ovechkin was hauled down after taking a nice lead pass from Nicklas Backstrom. However, the Caps did absolutely nothing on their man advantage, failing to even get a shot off on Ranger backup Marty Biron. Both teams seemed to be content with not doing much at that point, and the first shot did not even come for either team until almost six minutes had passed. Jay Beagle finally got a chance after taking a nifty pass from Marcus Johansson to get inside on Biron, but the netminder went old school with a two-pad stack to deny him. That seemed to get both teams going offensively, and both teams had some good chances by generating solid forecheck pressure down low. Marian Gaborik drew a penalty on the Capitals after he came oh so close on a rush up ice, and the Capitals headed to the penalty kill late in the frame. The Rangers were unable to convert, however, largely in part to a great save by Braden Holtby on Marc Staal. Neither team was able to get anything going in the final minute, and the teams headed to the locker rooms tied at 0.
In the second, the Caps got off to a great start when Marcus Johansson fed Matt Hendricks a beautiful cross-ice pass in front for a goal and a 1-0 caps advantage just over a minute in. The Caps used their momentum from the early goal to get more chances, but could not pot another, and their agression cost them an odd man rush against that Braden Holtby countered beautifully. Both teams picked up their offense rapidly as the period continued, and Holtby was called on again, this time in close on Brandon Prust, but the young netminder was again up to the task. With about 8 minutes left, Alex Ovechkin weaved through the Ranger defense to get a shot on Biron, but the Ranger netminder was excellent on him and then on Brooks Laich off the rebound. As the Rangers tried to counter, Brian Boyle got his stick up high on Mathieu Perreault, and the Capitals were awarded another power play with 5 minutes left. Despite good puck movement, however, the Caps were unable to score, extending their frustrating futility a man to the good. The Rangers tried to get some pressure going late, but the Caps defense and Holtby once again preserved the lead, and the second period ended with the Caps up 1-0.
In the third, the Capitals came out hard again, with both Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson getting early chances, but could not extend their advantage. The Capitals were called for a penalty soon after when John Erskine took a high-sticking call. But once more, the penalty killers and Holtby held the fort for the time being. Soon after the penalty expired, Alex Ovechkin was called for the first backwards dive in the history of the NHL, negating a potential Capitals power play, and the 4 on 4 generated some good chances for both teams. But it was the Rangers who began to dominate, pinning the Caps in their zone for extended periods. They were finally rewarded when Marian Gaborik found a way to get a bouncing puck to go over Holtby's head and into the cage for the Rangers' equalizer. Replay seemed to show that Gaborik punched the puck in, and the goal was reviewed, but it was determined that sufficient evidence did not exist to overturn the call. The Capitals were right back at it, and contiuned to press hard, but Martin Biron was excellent in close, and Nicklas Backstrom had a miss from in tight as well. After more chances at both ends, regulation ended and the game moved to overtime.
In the extra period, the Caps came oh so close multiple times, but Biron again was up to the task with excellent saves on John Carlson and Marcus Johansson. After no scoring occurred in overtime, the game moved to a shooutout. After Alex Ovechkin missed to open the shootout, four consecutive goals were scored by Wojtek Wolski, Matt Hendricks, Mats Zuccarello, and Nicklas Backstrom before Holtby stopped Brian Boyle. Marcus Johansson was stopped by Biron in the 4th round, and Artem Anisimov then proceeded to dangle Holtby out of his pads and score to pot the win for the Rangers.
Passive, passive, PASSIVE! The Capitals, once they had gotten their lead, seemed like it was appropriate to sit back and let the Rangers come to them, instead of going in for the kill with constant offensive pressure like they did last year. Guess what? They got bit in the ass. Again. With the exception of a few odd man rushes and forecheck periods, Washington did not attack the way that we are used to seeing in the past from this team. Their stars lack the ability to finish and the offense is simply not there right now. They are passing up shots that they need to take on odd man rushes, set plays at even strength, and on the power play, and they cannot afford to do that if they want to win more. Sigh.
Braden Holtby was great again and got his team a point that they did not deserve with several great saves. He had no chance on the one goal he allowed in regulation, and although he was embarrassed in the shootout, he was the reason the Caps even got there and I'll cut a guy who has never seen an NHL shootout some slack in that department. I bet we will see Varlamov on Wednesday, but Holtby has earned his keep for now.
We are back to square one after a promising weekend. The wins over the Islanders and Leafs proved nothing to anybody, and the Caps were in position to make a statement tonight against a good, not great, Rangers team missing their best forward, number 2 defenseman, and their top goaltender. If the Caps can't hold off a team like the Rangers, do you think they will be able to do it in the spring against a team like the Flyers (if they get that far)? I sure don't.
The Caps will practice tomorrow to continue to work on their pathetic power play before jetting south to take on the Thrashers on Wednesday night in another must win game. Puck drop for that one is scheduled for 7 P.M.