The Caps came into Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers bruised after being easily defeated by Philadelphia Flyers — again — at Capital One Arena less than 24 hours earlier. With the lead in the Metropolitan Division hanging in the balance, the Capitals headed to the bright lights of Manhattan and Madison Square Garden with a chance to right the ship.
Instead, the Capitals made fools of themselves in the third period and lost a wild 6-5 overtime game.
Plus: Alex Ovechkin has done a lot of damage to the Rangers over the years, and has a penchant for the dramatic at Madison Square Garden, so it’s not surprising that he would be behind not one but two game-tying goals - one in the final minute of regulation. Bonus plus: Ilya Kovalchuk getting his first as a Cap.
Minus: Penalties. So many penalties. So many bad, dumb, and ill-timed penalties.
And now, this:
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Capitals got off to another hot start in this one, with Richard Panik having a great chance on an early breakaway that was robbed by Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. A few minutes later, Carl Hagelin converted on a Nick Jensen pass, capitalizing on a miscue by Georgiev who was clearly expecting Hagelin to pass. The Swede instead tucked the puck between the goalie and post with a sharp wrist shot from the circle to give the Caps the lead.
- After taking over eight minutes to register a shot on goal, the Rangers got on the board shortly after Hagelin’s strike with their second. Capitals defenseman John Carlson stood next to Mika Zibanejad (remember that name), failing to clear the Rangers forward out of the crease but completely screening his own netminder, who couldn’t prevent Zibanejad from tipping the puck past him. For the second night in a row a minor penalty nixed a strong start by Washington, this time courtesy of Nic Dowd, who had four minutes in penalty time in the first to nicely blunt the Caps momentum in the opening frame.
- The trend continued into the second period against the Rangers, as the Capitals managed to collect four infractions just halfway through the contest. A delayed call on Evgeny Kuznetsov for breaking his stick on Zibanejad’s legs led to the Rangers’ go-ahead goal, Zibanejad using the open ice to cash in with his second of the night.
- Kuznetsov would play a key role in helping Zibanejad to his hat trick, nice guy that he is. Just seconds after the third period began, Kuznetsov committed a cardinal error behind his own net, weakly attempting to rim the puck around the glass and turning it over instead. It was the second lazy effort from the top trio to result in a go-ahead goal; earlier in the game, Alex Ovechkin was caught standing still as Tony DeAngelo broke towards the net unfettered and fired a wrist shot top shelf on Samsonov. And to round out a hat trick of a different kind, it was top-line winger Tom Wilson getting beat for Zibanejad’s fifth (5!) goal of the game - the overtime winner. That inattentiveness by some of the team’s top forwards is a stark reminder that the Capitals’ porous defense goes beyond just players whose position starts with “defense.”
- With Holtby taking the L last night, Ilya Samsonov got the start on the second end of a back-to-back — and while he was not at fault on some of the Rangers goals, he seemed bemused by Zibanejad’s second blast and at another point completely misplayed a puck behind the net, losing his equipment like confetti scrambling back to the net mouth in a play the Rangers somehow were unable to convert on. After a red-hot start - especially on the road - Samsonov has now lost five games in row.
- The Russian in net may have struggled, but the Russian skaters brought their firepower tonight. Welcome Ilya Kovalchuk to the scoreboard, as he got his first goal as a Capital on a blast from the circle. Kovalchuk’s goal was set up by a smart feed from Lars Eller, who was one of the best players on the ice (aside from the fact that he committed three senseless penalties, including a couple late in regulation). Alex Ovechkin added a game-tying tally on a one-timer in the third off a trademark Backstrom-Carlson-Ovechkin-smash play.
- The Capitals have allowed at least three goals in 10 straight games. It was double that against the Rangers. Their defense is not great. Just FYI.
- Just when the Capitals looked like they were dead, Samsonov on the bench, Ovechkin fired the puck into an open net in to salvage a point with just 43 seconds left. The Capitals are the league’s best team playing six-on-five, and while they (deservedly) lost the game, that was key to helping them grab a point and stay atop the Metro standings... albeit now locked in a tie for first.
- After going 0-for-5 on the power play Wednesday, the Capitals deployed their new look power play well tonight, and while they failed to convert on their two power play opportunities, they managed four shots on goal on each of their man-advantages.
- Committing 12 infractions in 24 hours seems like... a lot.
So that’s two embarrassing nights in a row for the Caps, getting handily defeated by the Flyers on home ice and then being outplayed by the Rangers. Don’t discount the standings point, though, or the fact that they did manage to come back in this one a few times before ultimately falling in OT.
Even if the Caps had pulled the game out in overtime, this game should leave them red-faced. The story is the same: inexcusable penalties and neglectful defense. These are fixable mistakes that are not being fixed.
The team will be in the Western Pennsylvania for a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins, another team hot on their heels, on Saturday afternoon. Buckle up.