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Capitals vs. Rangers Recap: Ovechkin’s 709th Not Enough to Catch the Rangers

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The Caps change tactics and start slow but fail to complete the comeback.

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

After the upsetting loss to the Boston Bruins in which they gave up a three goal lead to lose in regulation, the Capitals took a rare one game stop in New York City. The Capitals also, for the first time in years, went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. The strangeness of the lineup didn’t help though as they fell to the Rangers 2-4 (with an empty netter).

Plus: Seeing that classic Ovechkin goal was just so darn good to see (and moved him further up the list of all-time goal scorers).

Minus: The Capitals took four penalties, three of them in the offensive zone. It’s not frustrating just because they are taking so many but because they are taking them at the other end of the ice. It also always seems to be the penalty killers that are taking the penalties, which is a double whammy. Luckily it didn’t cost them tonight.

10 more notes on the game...

  • You could tell that Ovechkin was ready for this game, as he always seems to be for games at Madison Square Garden. But you could also tell he’s still trying to find his mechanics after sitting out for four games. He whiffed on a two-on-one shot, then spoiled a nice pass from Nic Dowd moments later that he was at least able to get to the net but was stuffed.
  • Unfortunately no goal at one end of the ice went the other way quickly, as right after that Ryan Strome tipped a shot past Vitek Vanecek. While T.J Oshie was in the vicinity, he unfortunately wasn’t able to tie up the goal-scorer’s stick.
  • With only eleven forwards, Laviolette was forced to double-shift some of the forwards, with Ovechkin and Oshie in frequent rotation.
  • Anthony Bitetto, the 30-year-old defensemen who hasn’t scored an NHL goal since 2017-18 (that’s 112 games), who has had two goals in all of 184 NHL games, was granted one wish by a genie. It was to score the most beautiful goal he possibly, physically could. The genie said it would happen at some random game. Tonight, February 4th 2021, was the night it was granted to him. He scored an absolute beauty skating around the offensive zone like he was Bobby Orr. You can talk about how bad the defense was (and... it was), but never has Bitetto scored a goal like that and never again will he.
  • After being one of the last Caps without a goal so far this season, Carl Hagelin was robbed of his first last game by an offsides call - but he would not be denied twice, even if it was a bit of a fluke. A Garnet Hathaway shot hit the goalie, then hit Hagelin’s glove before it went up and over the Shesterkin into the net. A brief review made everyone a little nervous, but this time the hockey gods were smiling down on Hagelin.
  • The Capitals put together their best shift of the game in the third but Zdeno Chara made a very ill-advised pinch on the boards after a long shift, which allowed a 3-on-1 for the Rangers with their top line out and they capitalized to make it 3-1.
  • Every year you think Ovechkin is going to slow down but he scored a goal in the third off the faceoff where you couldn’t even see the puck in real time. That’s how hard and fast he shoots.
  • Brenden Dillon took a kneeing penalty shortly after that, but the Caps lucked out and drew an embellishment penalty that was perhaps a tad generous to make it four on four. With that much space, you’d expect the top scorers to step up... alas, Jakub Vrana was the closest to hitting pay dirt and he ripped his best chance off the crossbar.
  • The good news is that the Caps were able to draw some penalties; the bad news is that the Caps weren’t able to take advantage in the dying minutes, and the Rangers scored into the open net to ice this one.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad a game as it maybe looked by the Capitals - but it’s starting to feel like missing so much talent and depth is taking its toll. The Capitals desperately need Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Schultz, Lars Eller, and Ilya Samsonov back.

Next up for the Caps is the Philadelphia Flyers for the annual Super Bowl game, Sunday at noon.