After a solid bounceback win against the Predators last night, it was time for the Caps to head to Manhattan to take on the Rangers in a divisional matchup and perhaps avenge a pretty horrific loss earlier in the season. In order to make it a clean sweep on the weekend, the Caps would need to continue the strong play they exhibited at home twenty-four hours earlier - and exorcise the demons of a man who has whitewashed them three straight times, Henrik Lundqvist.
From start to finish, that's exactly what the Caps did, using a variety of scorers from the forwards and defense to not only knock King Henrik from his throne at last but also, and more importantly, to take the two points from a division rival.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Coming into tonight's game, the Caps hadn't scored a goal on Henrik Lundqvist in 180 minutes, dating back to overtime of Game 5 last May. After a scoreless first period, that impressive run had extended to 200 straight minutes of shutout hockey and counting... until the Caps' own Lundqvist-killer, Jason Chimera, made sure that streak came to an end in the second period with a gritty front-of-the-net battle to give his team the lead. For those keeping track, Chimera now has six goals and two assists against Lundqvist (including playoffs) since joining the Caps in the 2009-10 season.
- Usually it's the other team scoring shortly after the Caps get a goal (and unfortunately that would continue later). This time around it was the Caps doing the job themselves, as less than thirty seconds after Chimera's goal, Steve Oleksy put an innocent-looking wrist shot on net that somehow got through Lundqvist to give the Caps a cozy two-goal cushion.
- Oleksy's tally was the first of the season for the defenseman, who returned to the lineup tonight after a series of healthy scratches - and was the fourth time in the last three games that a member of the blue line corps picked up his first goal of the season, following the footsteps of Mike Green (against Carolina last Tuesday), Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt (against Nashville last night).
- He may not have done much in terms of goal-scoring tonight, but it was an energetic and well-played game for Alex Ovechkin. Along with his usual high shot-attempt total (six on the night, four that hit the net), he had a couple of great chances, including some of the spin-o-rama variety, and picked up a blocked shot that was both great and something we never want to see again. He also had a feisty shoving/slashing match with Rick Nash that landed them both in the penalty box... but not without a smile, because life is good when you're Ovi.
- The second period overall was a strong one for the Caps tonight, and it ended on a high note when Mikhail Grabovski was awarded a penalty shot (that probably should have just been a penalty) late in the frame. Grabovski has tons of moves and some silky-smooth hands... so naturally he chose to rifle a slapshot on net from close range, and it was a good choice, as the shot beat Lundqvist cleanly and put the Caps up by three. Nice night all around for Grabovski and the rest of his line.
- With that tally, the Caps had three goals in a single period for the tenth time this season, and the second time in as many nights, following up their three-goal outburst to open Saturday night's game against the Predators. Spreading the offense around would be nice on occasion, but it's pretty fun to see them pile on in a single frame like that - and impressive that they've now done it in a third of their games.
- It wasn't all one-sided, though, as the Rangers had some decent chances of their own, particularly in the first half of the game. Major credit to Philipp Grubauer for his performance tonight en route to his first career NHL win (and was so, so close to his first career shutout) in an excellent 30-save effort. The future in net for the Caps looks pretty good, no?
- Weird night when the Caps not only outshoot an opponent, but also pick up more blocked shots against the Rangers - to the tune of an almost 2:1 ratio, with 17 shot-blocks to New York's 8. Guess John Tortorella really is gone from behind the Blueshirts' bench...
- One of the biggest reasons for the win tonight was the ability of the Caps to play a suffocating style of defense... and no, that's not a typo. The Caps did an excellent job of limiting time and space against the Rangers, frustrating them and keeping them from generating any momentum, which in turn kept the Madison Square Garden faithful from ever really getting into the game. Except when they were booing their team, of course; then they seemed pretty into it.
- Of course, they did have one thing to cheer for, and that was the goal the Rangers scored with less than two minutes left in the game that spoiled the shutout bid for Grubauer. It also came just a little over a minute after Eric Fehr deflected a Nate Schmidt point shot past Lundqvist to put the Caps up by four, the 14th time this team has allowed their opponent to answer back within two minutes. This one hardly mattered at the end of the day, but it's just such a bad trend that it's worth noting. Ugh.
It's always nice to make New York fans angry, and if you can do it by lighting up the guy who has shut you out for 200 straight minutes, all the better - the Caps were able to do both tonight, picking up another two points in a four-point weekend (their second straight such weekend) and doing so with two strong efforts. Keep it rolling, boys...