It’s matinee hockey time, folks! This is the fifth meeting between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers this season, and the defensive-minded Rangers have won three of the previous four meetings. The Caps have yet to score more than two goals in a game against the Rangers this year.
Some lineup notes: today marks just the second time this season that Ilya Samsonov has started back to back games. The young Russian goalie is coming off a stellar shutout performance against the Devils on Friday night, so starting him in net today seemed like a no-brainer. Lars Eller is still absent from the Caps’ third line, missing his seventh-straight game with a lower-body injury. Enter the following lines:
Capitals lines in warmups vs Rangers:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) March 28, 2021
Something else to note today: the Capitals wore special lavender jerseys during warmups this afternoon for their Hockey Fights Cancer Day. The autographed jerseys, along with sticks, pucks, and hats, are available for auction through MSE.
Our @Capitals #HockeyFightsCancer Auction featuring autographed jerseys, sticks, pucks and hats is NOW open.— MSE Foundation (@MSEFndn) March 28, 2021
Proceeds benefit @flashesofhope, @LLSNatCap, @WishMidAtlantic and @PanCANDC
Bid Now or Donate: https://t.co/o7ld4qgmHR pic.twitter.com/BnQRMgxm0Q
Here’s Sunday afternoon’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Ilya Samsonov wasn’t terribly busy this afternoon — the Rangers at one point went about 18 minutes without a shot on goal — but he was solid when called upon. He was particularly noticeable at the end of the second period when the Rangers had a handful of excellent looks. He had a few blunders in the third period, but overall it was a good outing for him.
Minus: The Caps’ power play? It’s bad, guys. Five straight games without a power play goal is not ideal.
And now, don’t miss the NBC Hockey Culture feature on Hershey Bears’ video coach Emily Engel-Natzke:
Coming soon to #HockeyCulture: @AnsonCarterLA sat down with Emily Engel-Natzke, a video coach for @TheHersheyBears to talk all things hockey! #ALLCAPS— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) March 28, 2021
For everything Hockey Culture: https://t.co/lGdoJ5Z52m pic.twitter.com/Ld3hxgEMGc
Fifteen more notes on the game:
1. It looked like none other than Mika Zibanejad got the Rangers on the board first, but noted NHL goaltender Dmitry Orlov was there to save the day. Zibanejad fired the puck from below the goal line, presumably to find someone in the slot, but his shot deflected off T.J. Oshie’s face in front of Samsonov and trickled back towards the net. The puck was about to completely cross the goal line, but Orlov lunged in just in time to sweep the puck away. Oshie did take a trip down the tunnel after the play, but he was back on the bench quickly.
No goal from Mika Zibanejad here. The puck hits TJ Oshie in the face and almost trickles past the goal line. Dmitry Orlov makes the save. pic.twitter.com/5vYXRbI99i— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 28, 2021
2. The Capitals got the first power play of the game with 2:45 left in the first when Colin Blackwell took a trip to the box for roughing Oshie after Oshie laid a huge hit on Kevin Rooney. Washington has gone scoreless on the power play in their last four games — they have not scored a power play goal since March 16 against the Islanders. The Caps recorded two shots during the man-advantage but could not get the puck past Keith Kinkaid. After this fruitless attempt, the Caps are now 0-14 on the PP against the Rangers this season. The Caps got another chance on the power play 3:25 into the second period with Brendan Smith sitting for two minutes for hooking Carl Hagelin. Did they do much with this chance? Absolutely not! The PPG drought continues.
3. The Rangers got their first power play chance with 12:49 left in the second after Nic Dowd got called for holding on Colin Blackwell, so the Caps’ PK got to work. The Rangers’ power play has been buzzing lately with six goals in their last three games, but the Capitals’ penalty kill managed to hold them to zero shots on the man-advantage. Still 0-0 halfway through the second.
4. The Capitals finally broke the tie with a goal from Tom Wilson, who the NBC crew simply could not stop talking about today. Jakub Vrana fired the initial shot at Kinkaid after speeding down the ice, and Wilson was there to clean up the messy rebound for his eighth goal of the season. Since returning from his suspension, Wilson has four points (1G, 3A).
5. Just 1:46 later, Alex Ovechkin scored career goal number 724 on a sharp-angle shot from the goal line. It looked like Ovechkin actually intended to pass it, but when the Great 8 is on a hot streak the puck is simply going to find its way to the back of the net. This is Ovechkin’s 18th goal of the season, so Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid better watch out.
6. Tom Wilson, fresh out of the penalty box after tripping Julien Gauthier, decided that one goal was not enough for him this afternoon so he scored his second of the game with 4:53 remaining in the second. Nicklas Backstrom fired the puck on net, and Wilson was there to bat the rebound in out of the air. It is, after all, spring training szn. Also of note: T.J. Oshie recorded an assist on this tally, his second helper of the game.
7. Carl Hagelin headed to the box with 1:46 left in the second after high-sticking Gauthier, sending the Rangers to the power play for the third time this afternoon. Despite having one of their top penalty killers in the box, the Caps PK remained perfect on the afternoon and held the Rangers to zero shots on the man-advantage.
8. 1:50 into the third, the Caps got their third power play opportunity of the afternoon when Libor Hajek was called for interference on Tom Wilson. This is Wilson’s tenth drawn penalty of the season, which leads the team. The best opportunity during these two minutes was when K’Andre Miller just missed the net on a shorthanded two-on-one with Pavel Buchnevich. Yes, you read that right, the best chance on the Capitals’ power play was in favor of the Rangers.
9. Bird celly sighting! Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his sixth goal of the season off a beauty of a pass from Carl Hagelin. Hagelin corralled the puck behind the net and sent the puck right to Kuzy’s stick in the slot, and Kuzy did not miss. That’s four goals and eight assists in the last ten games for Kuznetsov — is that good?
10. Colin Blackwell scored 6:44 into the third to break Samsonov’s shutout streak and put the Rangers on the board. There was a bit of chaos in front of the net, and Blackwell was there to put the puck past Samsonov.
11. Blackwell scored again, this time from down in front, to cut the Capitals’ lead to two just three minutes after he scored his first goal of the game. Kevin Rooney made a beautiful play and fed the puck to Blackwell on a centering pass, and he roofed the puck past Samsonov. 4-2 Caps.
12. T.J. Oshie, apparently not content with his two assists on the afternoon, got his eighth goal of the season with deflection of a Justin Schultz shot from the blue line. The deflection was an absolute work of art, and it put the Caps up 5-2. Alexa, play “Country Roads”! Also, Dmitry Orlov recorded his second assist of the afternoon on the goal, giving Orlov his first multi-point game of the season.
Oshbabe with the perfect tip-in pic.twitter.com/ceHkw21sH6— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 28, 2021
13. Alexis Lafreniere brought the Rangers within two once more with a goal off a messy rebound in front of Samsonov. The puck bounced off Samsonov’s pad, and the Canadian rookie was there to clean it up. After going goalless for half the game, things sure have escalated quickly.
14. With 4:03 left in the game, the 0-3 Rangers’ power play got their fourth chance of the game with Wilson in the box for tripping Brendan Smith. It only took 11 seconds for Chris Krieder to score his 17th goal of the season off a great pass from Ryan Strome. 5-4 Caps.
We've got ourselves a one-goal game late in the third! pic.twitter.com/O6iqrg9EKZ— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 28, 2021
15. Keith Kinkaid left the crease with two minutes remaining, and the Rangers called a timeout with 1:39 to go. The Caps iced the pucks a few times on empty net attempts, but they could not convert on the insurance tally. They did keep the Rangers from tying the game, however, and managed to hold on to their 5-4 win. Phew.
The Capitals have won 14 of their last 16 games, and are on a three-game winning streak. Up next for the Caps: kicking off a five-game road trip with a stop in New York City for a rematch with the Rangers on Tuesday evening.