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Capitals vs. Rangers Recap: Caps Earn Two the Hard Way, Beat Rangers, 4-3 (OT)

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The Washington Capitals visited Madison Square Garden looking to put more distance between themselves and the New York Rangers. For 40 minutes, it looked as if they would. In the last minute, it looked as if they would not. Then there was Alex Ovechkin doing what he does.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals took a 2-0 lead into the third period, then gave it up by allowing three goals in a span of just over seven minutes in the third period, the last sustained after a challenge by Caps head coach Barry Trotz.

Here's Satuday afternoon's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: The first 40 minutes. The Caps played a very good road game through two periods, stymieing the Rangers between the blue lines and being opportunistic with their own sparse chances.
  • Minus: The last 20 minutes, when the Caps got lackadaisical and let the Rangers back into the game with three goals in a space of just over seven minutes.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • First periods have often been unkind to both the Caps and the Rangers this season, but it was the Rangers cracking first late in the period when, trying to kill a Caps power play, they gift wrapped the puck to Alex Ovechkin at the side of the net, and a tap-in later it was 1-0, the ninth straight game in which the Rangers allowed at least one first period goal.
  • Under the faceoff dots is territory that the Rangers had trouble negotiating in the Capitals’ end of the ice. Washington did a good job for the most part of pushing the Rangers to the outside for their offensive opportunities. Even the Ranger goals were more breakdowns in open ice than an ability to exert consistent offensive pressure.
  • Nate Schmidt showed fine awareness on his pass to send Justin Williams off on a breakaway that would end in a goal. Three Rangers were below Schmidt as he took control of the puck, and the two defenders back were spread wide to give Williams a clear lane down the middle. It gave Schmidt a point in his third straight game.
  • Karl Alzner played defense like an all-pro offensive lineman in football, blocking everything in sight, or so it seemed. He recorded seven blocked shots in 20 shifts through two periods, one fewer than the entire Ranger team compiled through 40 minutes.
  • Yesterday, when Capitals Nation got the word that Marcus Johansson would be suspended for two games, one might have wondered about forward depth with Michael Latta promoted to the third line, Stanislav Galiev getting a sweater, and Paul Carey promoted from the Hershey Bears to fill in. Then there were Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness playing on defense with John Carlson and Brooks Orpik out. The new guys did not get a lot of ice time, but to have so many depth players in the lineup and still work out a win says something about their being able to contribute, if only to play their roles in the Caps’ system.
  • Zebras were exercising their whistle technique early. Five power plays were awarded (three to New York, two to Washington) in the first 21:13 of the game.
  • Even strength advantaged the Rangers in the first two periods of this game, which seems to be a recurring theme in this arena. The Rangers held a 12-8 edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts in the first period, a 16-15 advantage at fives in the second frame. Scoring chances also tilted the Rangers’ way, 5-4 in the first period, 8-5 in the second. Oddly enough, the Caps held a 17-15 edge in shot attempts in the third period and a 7-5 edge in scoring chances.
  • Bending but not breaking has been a hallmark of this team, reflected in their ability to close out teams. That notion was severely tested as the Caps blew a two-goal lead, surrendering that lead by allowing three goals in just over seven minutes. But there was Nicklas Backstrom batting in a loose puck with less than ten seconds in regulation to force the overtime.
  • Resilience…relentlessness…resolve. Call it what you will, but right now the Caps have it. One of the hardest things to do in sports is to take a lead, give away the momentum, and they grab it back. However, after the third Ranger goal the Caps took over the game. They were sloppy in the first 15 minutes of the third period, but they earned this win.
  • Alex Ovechkin is now within a goal of 500, getting to 499 with a signature move of hauling the mail down the left side, cutting to the middle, and snapping a blur of a wrist shot for an overtime game-winner. There might not be a player with a greater sense of timely drama in the league, or in the last 20 years, than the Capitals’ captain.

And now, this...

Game highlights: