Following a nice five game, 10 day road trip in which they went 3-2, the Washington Capitals came home to face the New York Rangers on Friday night and laid a big fat egg. The Blueshirts outworked a listless Caps team en route to a 6-0 victory behind 35 saves from Henrik Lundqvist. The ugly loss, in which the Capitals looked like anything but a playoff team, drops Washington’s record to 32-20-10 with 20 games remaining. Coupled with Tampa’s victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, Washington now trails the Southeast Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning by five points.
Here are the highlights and analysis of one of the most pitiful efforts I’ve seen from this club this season:
– Let’s start with where it went downhill, just over five minutes into this game. Mike Green, returning to the lineup for the first time after missing the last five games, cross checked Derek Stepan behind the Capitals net but both zebras, Tom Kowal and Dan O’Halloran, let the play go on. As a result, shortly after that the puck came down the left wing boards and went past both #52 and Stepan, the Rangers forward then hit #52 up high in the head with either an elbow or shoulder. Green went down hard to the ice and as play carried on, Steve Eminger fired a point shot that appeared to hit a Capital on the way into the top corner of the net. No penalty was called on Stepan for a shot to the head or even interference given that the hit came with the puck long gone, and Green left the game after only 2:25 of ice time and two shifts. If he has a concussion, it is a serious blow to this Capitals team. As for the referees, they are an absolute joke for allowing both hits to go uncalled and they are a disgrace to hockey.
– After that, no Caps player retaliated on Stepan to let the Rangers know that cheap shots on one of their star players was unwarranted. And as expected, the Blue Shirts took advantage of that lack of push back and physically outworked and beat the Capitals the rest of the game turning a 2-0 first period into a 4-0 rout after two power play goals in the middle frame. Washington’s penalty kill, which had been a strong point for them this season, was absolutely terrible in that stanza allowing two easy Ranger markers.
– About the only Washington player who came to play was Alexander Ovechkin, but he can’t do it all himself. The Great #8 had 8 shots on goal, 5 blocked, and 4 missed. He put a beautiful move on New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh late in period one drawing a holding call that really should have resulted in a penalty shot, but I’ve already told you how bad Kowal and O’Halloran were, so you get the picture. Ovie had six hits on the night as well, but for once Lundqvist, a goalie Ovie has typically owned, got the better of #8 on Friday night.
– In summary, this loss was pathetic and with Green out of the lineup so early, Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau had to go with just five defenseman for the remainder of the game. Only one of them, John Carlson, can be considered a true puck rusher, thus any offensive help from the back line was not going to happen. With the glaring hole at second line center already there, Washington was going to have win this one with heart and grit, but both were firmly sitting on Rangers Coach John Tortorella’s bench on this night. The bottom line on this game is the following: Yes, the Capitals have some spots where they suffer in the talent department, but filling those two holes with skill would have done NOTHING to help their lack of heart, effort, determination, and will to even stand up for their injured teammate on this night. And that Caps fans, is a very sad and telling story.
Notes: The Rangers won three of the four contests between the clubs, including the last three tilts…the Caps were 0 for 5 on the power play while New York was 2 for 4 with the man advantage…Washington has one goal in their last three home games (h/t Ted Starkey of The Washington Times)…Nicklas Backstrom, who reportedly fractured his thumb in the win over Pittsburgh on Monday night, took just one faceoff in the contest (he leads the team in number of draws taken this season)…the Caps did win the faceoff battle, 31-30…Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth was hung out to dry on this night and allowed six goals on 28 shots, many of which he had little chance on…the Caps are on Long Island to take on John Tavares and the New York Islanders on Saturday night at 7 pm (CSN HD).