After putting together a modest three-game winning streak against division rivals Florida and Tampa, it was time for the Caps to take it out against a tougher (albeit underachieving) team in the New York Rangers. Ninth place in name only, tonight presented the Caps with a chance to not only continue their streak but also perhaps gain a little bit of redemption for last spring.
...or at least as much redemption as a regular season win can offer after a playoff loss to a better team months earlier.
Unfortunately the team seemed a little lost in this one and despite some excellent goaltending they’d ultimately fall short. Even the score would be the same as that fateful Game 7 last May, as the winning streak is halted at three at MSG.
Eleven more notes on the game:
- Scoring opened early in this one, as John Carlson cashed in from the point just 1:19 into the first period. It was a hell of a shot and a nice play to get him the puck, but if he’d had any more time and space on that play he could have built a little house right there on the ice (and then rented it out for the usual exorbitant Manhattan amount).
- How much does Carlson like scoring on the Rangers, by the way? He’s got points in seven of his last eleven games including the playoffs, adding a goal tonight to his 3-3-6 line through 4 games in 2011-12 and another two goals and an assist in the seven-game series last spring.
- Unfortunately the Caps would fall back into their usual pattern of going shorthanded within a few minutes of scoring, effectively quashing momentum. They would kill off that first penalty by Jason Chimera but it was the start of some special teams adventures in which they killed off three penalties but gave up some good chances to the Rangers on their one power play of the first.
- The bulk of the credit for that early penalty-killing success (and for the fact that the game was at all close) goes to Braden Holtby, who turned aside twenty shots before the game was twenty minutes old and thirty-eight of forty on the night. So far Holtby’s been able to put up a good game when the team in front of him was good, and has had off-nights right along with his mates; this was the first one of the season that felt like maybe he could steal. Ultimately it wasn’t to be, but another strong start for Braden.
- Ultimately a good team should be able to overcome an injury here or there, but sometimes the loss is too great (and the team not quite good enough). It was very clear that Mike Green’s absence was felt and felt often tonight, from the inflated ice times of people like John Erskine and Tomas Kundratek to the power play that struggled early on to the simple lack of smooth puck-control to start a breakout. The Caps will get a few days off before their next game to rest, but more importantly so will Mike Green - here’s hoping it cures what ails him.
- Pretty scary moment in the second when Matt Hendricks and Darroll Powe collided at center ice, neither one seeing the other until it was too late (if then). Hendricks was visibly shaken up but was able to skate off on his own; Powe wasn’t so lucky, requiring assistance to leave the ice and not returning.
- The ice was visibly tilted in the Rangers’ favor for most of the first and the early part of the second, as they seemed to gain momentum from some power play time - and it would finally pay off almost halfway through the second when Carl Hagelin would take advantage of extended offensive zone pressure by the Rangers to put one past Holtby and even up the score.
- On a few occasions the Caps were able to create some chances of their own, with Wojtek Wolski in particular having an eventful second period. He had a couple of near-misses in that middle frame, one early in the second that trickled through the crease behind Henrik Lundqvist (and got a strange carom off of Henrik to steer clear of the goal line), an in-tight chance on the power play and a 2-on-1 with Nicklas Backstrom that just went wide. At times he’s been invisible this year but when he hasn’t, it’s been because he’s ohmygoshsoclose to scoring. Eventually it has to start going in for him....right?
- Right when you thought maybe the Caps had figured out this whole "don’t take penalties" thing, it was Karl Alzner headed to the box midway through the third. He wasn’t there for long, however, as seven seconds later the Rangers were on top after a beautiful passing play that ended up in the back of the net. Nice work by New York but Carlson didn’t help matters, as he ended up being way too high on the play (...positionally-speaking) for no apparent reason and was unable to recover.
- Tomas Kundratek’s 23:25 of ice time sets a new career-high mark in that area... and it comes against the team that drafted him, no less. Hey Rangers, how’s Francois Bouchard doing these days?
- Score effects and all that jazz, but the Caps did put together a few decent chances late in the game to try and tie it up. The problem, of course, was they were doing so against a pretty good goalie with a pretty good shot-blocking team in front of him (led of course by Ryan Callahan, who absorbed six of his team's twelve blocked shots tonight). A few flurries and some last-minute shots ultimately just weren’t enough to salvage a point for the Caps tonight.
So the brakes are applied to that very exciting three-game winning streak for now, and the Caps will have to get back to work to start a new one. The good news? They’ll have three days off to rest up and hopefully get at least Mike Green back into the lineup. The bad news? Their first chance to start a new winning streak comes against the New Jersey Devils, who will be in town for two games this weekend - and who are currently sitting in second place in the East.
But hey, the Devils are coming off a bit of a lopsided loss to the Islanders... anything can happen.