Another afternoon game for the Capitals, another loss. There’s something about these New York Rangers that the Capitals can’t beat, dropping their fourth straight against them.
Minus: The first line was terrible. They were the only line below 55% xGF - and they were way below, checking in at a little bit below 10%. Evgeny Kuznetsov is still trying to get to full strength after his bout with the Covid, but maybe don’t put him and Alexander Ovechkin together going forward, unless there is a speedier winger with them.
Plus: Every other line was actually really strong in that same area, ranging from just above 55% to almost 96% xGF.
That also means the Capitals are 8-2-1 in night games, meaning half their regulation losses and two-thirds of their loser point games are while the sun is up.— Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) February 20, 2021
- In Tom Wilson’s first shift of the game he took a puck off the face, joining an elite group of players who have taken rubber to the noggin in this early season that includes Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Schulz, and Zdeno Chara. Thankfully he was only away for a brief stretch, returning about 15 minutes later with a stitched-up lip.
- Nic Dowd, king of committing offensive zone penalties, actually drew a penalty in the offensive zone for once. Unfortunately the Capitals weren’t able to do anything with it.
- Richard Panik, who has quietly been very good this season but who has not avoided the Caps’ plague of penalty-taking, took a roughing penalty late in the first period which the Caps thankfully killed off. Unfortunately almost as soon as that minor ended, Lars Eller took his own turn in the box with a hook inside the blue line, sending the Rangers back to their usually anemic power play... which they of course scored on.
- Throughout most of this game it looked like both teams were skating through quicksand. A product of an early afternoon game, perhaps? Whatever the reason, this was not exactly a thrilling game to watch.
- In a day of drought-snapping, Alexis Lafreniere - the Rangers’ vaunted first-overall pick, he of the one goal so far this season - made it 2-0 after John Carlson left him open in front of the net. Minutes later it was 3-0 when a seeing-eye shot from the point by Ryan Strome made it past everyone, including Vitek Vanecek.
- It seemed as if Dmitry Orlov might help turn the tide after two quick strikes by the Rangers, getting the Caps back in it less than a minute later with a beautiful goal of his own - incredibly, his first point of the season.
- While the Rangers’ power play was able to break through, the Caps were unable to find their own way with the extra man, wasting four power play opportunities of their own (including two in the third period, down by a pair of goals). So much for that healthy power play percentage at home this year, right?
- Case in point: shortly after a great save by Vanecek, the Caps drew a penalty that saw Backstrom somehow missing Carlson dead in the slot for what most likely would have been a goal, followed by an Ovechkin swing-and-a-miss that not only didn’t result in a shot but let the Rangers the puck up the ice, out of the zone, and into the waiting empty net to make it 4-1.
So the first have of the weekend is in the books; up next is a primetime-turned-matinee date with the Devils. Here’s hoping the Caps can shake off this bad loss - and figure out a way to win afternoon games - to get back on the winning side of things.