The last time the Caps were in Madison Square Garden, the result was an emotional Game 6 victory in the very definition of a "must-win" game.
Thursday night's match between the Caps and Rangers was anything but a "must-win" - it was barely a "must-play" - and at times, it showed. For the most part, however, the pace was good, and with Opening Night a week away, the Caps are probably right on schedule.
Ten notes on the game:
- The game-winning goal was the result of a surprisingly poor defensive shift by the third line, including Matt Bradley getting blown past along the boards and David Steckel failing to tie up Christopher Higgins' stick in front.
Jose Theodore was solid again, very much so at times. But if he's at one end and Henrik Lundqvist is at the other and you had to bet on which 'tender would make the big save and who would let in a questionable tally... you'd have cashed in on the game-winner.
Alexander Semin just needed the assist to complete the Alex Semin Hat Trick (goal, assist, stick penalty).
- While the bar wasn't set particularly high, Mike Green had his best game yet this preseason, firing five shots on goal, blocking four shots and drawing two penalties.
Alex Ovechkin, on the other hand, had his worst game of the three he's played, throwing himself out of position going for big hits and trying to force passes that just weren't there. Still, his assist on Keith Aucoin's goal was pretty (as was Aucoin's conversion). We'll cut him a little slack.
- Speaking of cuts, have we seen enough of Alexandre Giroux yet (and by "we" I mean "Bruce Boudreau")?
- Hats off to Brandon Sugden for dropping the mitts twice with Donald Brashear (who took a couple of bad penalties himself). Sugar held his own, winning the first bout when Brash lost his balance, and taking the second to a decision after about a minute-and-a-half of huggin' and punchin'.
Milan Jurcina had another strong game, racking up eight hits (more than twice as many as any other defenseman in the game) and three blocked shots.
- If Marian Gaborik's groin can hold up on MSG's ice, he'll have a huge year. But it won't, so he won't.
- The power play that was so potent a night ago was 0-for-5 tonight (and allowed one shorty against and nearly another that resulted in an Ovechkin penalty). Needs more Knuble.
And so the decisive Game 9 of the Caps/Rangers best-of-nine series is set for Sunday in Washington... No? Oh well. Just one more of these exhibitions left before the games start to really matter - the long summer is nearly over.