Tonight’s game against the New York Rangers was an energy-packed 60 minutes, despite the 2-4 loss, both on the ice and in the stands. It’s to be expected with a rivalry like this one, to find hard hits in the game and aggressive cheers from the fans, both for the Capitals and against. Before regulation, referee Kelly Sutherland was honored for his 1,000th game with a team-signed stick from the Rangers and a team-signed jersey from the Caps, as well as a Tiffany crystal. Dmitry Orlov’s sick hit against Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche was also honored with a hilarious Stranger Things parody. Zach Sanford found himself in the game, in place of Brett Connolly on the third line.
The first period saw a lot of action with two goals, first from Lars Eller, his first goal as a Capital, and then from Alex Ovechkin. After Eller’s goal, Justin Williams quickly scooped it up and brought it right to the bench to be saved. The first twenty minutes also featured two penalties, one from Karl Alzner for high sticking, and the other from Eller for slashing in an attempt to stop a breakaway goal from the Rangers. This didn’t stop the Capitals, though, as they were completely in control during both penalty kills. Defense was remarkable, both from the blue line and in their own zone, with plenty of blocked shots. Notable players in the first period included Nicklas Backstrom for his great offense and blocked shots, Sanford for his high energy, and Evgeny Kuznetsov for losing his helmet but continuing to play. Period ended 2-0 Caps.
As the second period started, momentum died down and the Capitals began to get sloppy. It took the Rangers scoring three times for the Caps to get their defense back together. Those goals were scored by Brandon Pirri, and Jimmy Vesey, who got two in the net. Mika Zibanejad, on the other hand, landed a double major when he drew blood on T.J. Oshie while high-sticking. Matt Niskanen drew a penalty as well for roughing when he gave a Ranger a good shove from behind. Overall, the second period was marked by the Caps allowing too many breakaways and getting too complacent with being in the lead. Second period 3-2 NYR.
The third period was an improvement for a while, but it wasn’t enough. Nate Schmidt was the star of the last twenty minutes, with some sick blocks, hits, and powerful shots. The energy returned briefly, but it quickly turned into sloppiness and the Capitals not taking as many shots as they should’ve. The loss was solidified by an empty net goal from Rick Nash with less than six seconds remaining.
Final Score: 4-2 Rangers
Let’s hope the Caps bring their usual high-energy performance to Wednesday’s game in Edmonton.
Caps have the day off Sunday and return to Kettler for practice on Monday.