WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals' two-game winning streak came crashing down around them Friday afternoon, falling at home to the New York Rangers 6-3. John Carlson had two points, including a power play goal in the second power play period, and captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his first home goal of the campaign, but it was not enough as the Caps lacked punch from the start and paid the consequence dearly. As a result of their loss, Washington remains firmly entrenched in second place inside the Southeast Division.
The Capitals got off to a relatively good start, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make several good saves early, including an absolutely ridiculous stop on Joel Ward along the doorstep off a great setup play by Cody Eakin. Despite an early power play, however, the hosts were never able to test Lundqvist after the seven minute mark, and the rest of the period was all New York. The Blueshirts were aided by three consecutive power plays, but could not put one past Michal Neuvirth, who was making his first start in almost a week.
But the Rangers broke the game wide open to begin the second period, scoring on a two-on-one break three and a half minutes into the frame after a giveaway at the offensive blue line by John Carlson. Cody Eakin took an offensive zone penalty soon after, and the Rangers made the Caps pay again with a goal off the stick of Artem Anisimov to double their advantage. Sixty-three seconds later, Ryan Callahan forced Marcus Johansson to surrender the puck right in front of Neuvirth's net, and Ruslan Fedotenko was there to clean up the garbage and silence the Verizon crowd.
The Capitals, initially, would not go quietly however. 58 seconds after Fedotenko's goal, after a huge Alex Ovechkin hit along the boards, Nicklas Backstrom fed John Carlson in the high slot, who pumped a hard shot on Lundqvist. The goaltender could not corral the rebound, and it dropped right to Troy Brouwer, who potted from a foot out to cut the deficit to two. The hosts kept pressuring the Rangers, and drew within one on a power play 1t 12:52 when Carlson blasted home a slapshot from the top of the key.
But the Rangers, being the great team that they are, found a way to respond soon after. Roman Hamrlik got beat cleanly down low and the puck was thrown in front, where Michal Neuvirth was unable to contain a puck shot right at his catching glove, and Brian Boyle cashed in to re-extend New York's advantage and kill all of the momentum Washington had built heading into the second intermission.
Needing a spark desperately heading into the third period, the Caps could not prevent the Rangers from effectively putting the game out of reach a little more than four minutes in when Brad Richards scored on a pretty deflection play to make the lead 5-2. Alex Ovechkin ripped off one of his patented snapshots from the circle over Lundqvist's glove a little less than two minutes later, but it was simply too little, too late. The Caps lacked energy in their continued comeback attempt and New York finally iced the result past the midway mark of the frame with another goal in front off the stick of Fedotenko.
What is wrong with Michal Neuvirth? Like I understand that you haven't played in six days, but giving up a six-spot against one of the NHL's worst offensive clubs is not gonna fly. Mikey better pick it up soon, because if he doesn't, then Tomas Vokoun is going to have to start playing a lot more. Which does not bode well for him being fresh come playoff time.
Alex Ovechkin was better again tonight. A vintage Ovi goal and some nice hits, including one that directly led to the Caps' first goal, are hallmarks of the captain's game that we have not seen nearly enough of in 15 months now. It was certainly better, but again, it is nowhere near where he needs to be.
John Carlson is the best all-around defenseman that the Caps have besides Mike Green. With Dennis Wideman's performance today, that should no longer be in doubt. That is all.
The Caps have a quick turnaround coming up, with a game in Buffalo Saturday night. That game is scheduled for 7 PM.