Barnburner – Recent history between the Capitals and the New York Rangers features high-scoring games at Madison Square Garden and lower scoring affairs at Verizon Center. That pattern held true to form on Tuesday when the Caps left town with a 5-3 victory after their first Broadway visit of the season.
Matt Hendricks had the first multiple-point game of his NHL career, including the game-winning goal. Brooks Laich scored twice – including an empty-netter in the final minute – and had a key assist on Hendricks’ game-winner. John Erskine and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals.
Michal Neuvirth made 25 saves -- including 14 straight to close the contest -- to earn the win in goal.
“It does feel pretty good,” says Hendricks, speaking of his first two-point game in the league. “But I was on the ice for all three of their goals, too, so that doesn’t feel that great.”
A rash of skate repairs late in the second and into the third period led to some oddly cobbled line combinations, and Hendricks was out with Laich and Matt Bradley when he potted the game-winner to break a 3-3 deadlock at 7:53 of the third.
John Carlson made a good play at the point to keep the puck in the New York end, throwing it below the goal line. Hendricks’ linemates won the battles for the biscuit behind the net, and Bradley threaded a perfect pass to Hendricks for the game-winner.
Late in the first period, Hendricks got tangled up with Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer in what most of us thought should have resulted in fighting majors for both players. Instead, the officials assessed Hendricks a minor for roughing and Sauer a double-minor for the same.
Had the officials given Hendricks – who leads the Caps with four fighting majors – five for fighting, he would have had his first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight in same game) in the NHL.
“No comment on that,” says Hendricks. “But you can see [the disappointment] in my face, though, huh?”
Hendricks has two goals this season, both of them game-winners. Only Alex Ovechkin (three) has more among all Capitals. Seven different Caps have accounted for game-winning goals this season.
In the last five games between the two teams in New York, the Caps and Rangers have combined for a total of 42 goals, or an average of 8.4 per game. The two teams have combined for only 16 strikes in their last four meetings at Verizon Center for an average of four goals per game.
Ten Five Spots – Washington’s win pushed its winning streak to a season-high five straight games. This is the 10th winning streak of five or more games the Capitals have had since Boudreau took over behind the team’s bench less than three years ago.
Prior to Boudreau taking the reins, the Caps had gone more than seven years without winning as many as five straight games in succession. That drought between five-game winning streaks was the longest in franchise history and the longest in the NHL at the time.
Got ‘Em Right Where We Want ‘Em – Last season’s Caps team was the only club in the NHL to win more games than it lost (16-8-6) in games in which it surrendered the first goal.
Don’t look now, but Washington is already halfway to matching its win total from last season in that category. After allowing the game’s first strike in Tuesday’s win over the Rangers, the Capitals are now 8-3 this season when the opponent scores first.
Blueline Bomber – Erskine’s goal was a beauty, a rising bomb of a blueline blast that ended a 31-game goal drought for him. Erskine’s previous goal came against his former employer, the New York Islanders, on Long Island last Jan. 26.
The goal was the eighth of Erskine’s 338-game NHL career. Among his eight tallies, he has scored road goals against all three New York area teams: the Rangers, Islanders and Devils.
Tied After Two – Washington moves to a perfect 3-0 in games that were tied after two periods this season. The Rangers fall to 1-4 in such contests.
The Positive Touch – Laich was plus-3 on the night and he is now a league-leading plus-13 on the season.
Nine For Neuvy – Neuvirth has nine wins on the season, tops in the league. Neuvirth is halfway to Jim Carey’s Washington rookie record of 18 wins in 1994-95.
Montreal’s Bill Durnan holds the all-time NHL mark for wins by a rookie netminder with 38 in 1943-44. Durnan was 28 that season, an age which is considered too old to be a rookie in the modern era.
With 37 wins as a 22-year-old rookie in 1986-87, Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall would be considered the modern rookie record holder in wins.
Secondary Stuff – Tonight’s victory was the first for the Capitals this season in which the team did not get a goal from any of its four “Young Guns.”
Ironically, Washington’s most recent win without any lamp-lighters from the Young Guns also came against the Rangers, back on March 6 in a 2-0 Caps victory at Verizon Center.
Since then, the Caps were 0-4-1 in games in which they did not get a goal from any of the Young Guns.
Streaking – Caps defenseman Tyler Sloan picked up an assist on Erskine’s goal. Sloan is now the owner of the first three-game scoring streak (one goal, two assists) of his NHL career.
Ovechkin ran his scoring streak to seven games (four goals, eight assists). Mike Green pushed his streak to six (four goals, six assists) and Alexander Semin moved his streak to five (four goals, four assists.
Tale Of Two Henriks – Some were quick to point out that Lundqvist entered Tuesday’s game with a career mark of 9-5-2 against the Capitals, but a closer look shows some tarnish on King Henrik’s crown.
The Rangers goaltender broke into the NHL in 2005-06, and he had his way with Washington for his first three seasons in the league. During that time, he posted a 7-2-1 record in 10 starts against the Caps to go along with a 2.52 GAA and a .913 save pct.
Since the beginning of the 2008-09 season – and including the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs – the Caps have had the better of Lundqvist. He is now just 5-9-1 during that stretch, and has a rather unsightly 3.44 GAA and an .887 save pct. in those 15 starts.
Water In the Desert – Mike Knuble’s second-period goal ended a personal 13-game spell without a goal. Knuble’s 13-game goalless streak was his longest since 2001-02 when he was with Boston, and before he had ever scored more than 15 goals in any NHL season.
“I had a couple really good chances early,” notes Knuble. “You just keep going. I had close to 50 shots on the season and two goals. It’s not going to stay that way.”
Knuble went 17 games without a goal with the Bruins from Oct. 23-Dec. 22, 2001.
It makes sense that he would score at MSG, a rink he once called home and a place where he very much enjoys playing. Knuble has scored at least one goal every season at MSG since the lockout, and he has eight goals and 14 points in his last 17 games in the venerable old barn.
After a slow start last season, Knuble scored 22 goals in his last 39 games last season, finishing with 29 on the season despite missing 13 games with a broken finger.
“You’re not out of the woods yet,” warns Knuble. Just because you get one now doesn’t mean a thing, really. You keep working and try to get the chances. If you’re working for the chances, [the goals] will come.”
Mastering MSG – Washington has now won three straight visits to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1996. The Caps are 4-0-1 in Boudreau’s five regular season visits to the Rangers’ home barn.
Including the 2009 playoffs, Washington is now 6-1-1 in its last eight visits to Madison Square Garden.
Shots Down – Tonight’s game marked the sixth straight game in which the Rangers were held to fewer than 30 shots on goal. That’s the first time the Rangers have gone as many as six straight games with fewer than 30 shots on goal since Nov. 10-21, 2007.
Boogey Man – Derek Boogaard’s second-period goal for the Rangers ended a personal 234-game goal-scoring drought. Prior to Tuesday night’s tally against the Capitals, Boogaard’s most recent goal came on Jan. 7, 2006 against Anaheim while playing for Minnesota.
Ovechkin’s first career hat trick came against Anaheim six days after Boogaard’s last goal. The Caps’ captain now has nine career hat tricks.
Boogaard’s goal against Washington broke up a run in which Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle had scored each of New York’s six previous goals and eight of its previous nine.
Old Pro – Ex-Caps defenseman Steve Eminger was the second most experienced of the dozen defensemen in the lineup for both teams on Tuesday. Only New York’s Michal Rozsival (651 NHL games) entered the contest with more NHL experience than Eminger (358).
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears were in Charlotte on Tuesday night for the second of two consecutive road contests against the Checkers.
The Bears came into Tuesday’s tilt a bit on the banged up side. Injuries kept centers Keith Aucoin and Mathieu Perreault on the sidelines, and veteran defenseman Lawrence Nycholat was also out with an ailment.
Hershey overcame all that to post a 5-2 win over the Checkers. For the second straight game in Charlotte, Bears winger Kyle Greentree scored a pair of goals.
Dany Sabourin made 37 saves in the Hershey nets to earn his second triumph of the season.
The Bears are in action again on Friday when they host Toronto at the Giant Center.
By The Numbers – Ovechkin had five shots blocked in the first period alone, two of them on the power play … New York blocked 20 shots on the night, including seven off Ovechkin’s stick … Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with five blocked shots, two fewer than the Caps had as a team … Brandon Dubinsky and Todd White were the only Rangers not to record a hit on the night. New York finished with 33 hits … Despite spending five minutes in the box for fighting Dubinsky, Green still led all skaters on both sides with 25:22. Green is now tied with D.J. King for second on the team with two fights.
Backhand shot -
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
Wrist shot -
2 - 1 NYR
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NYR
Wrist shot -
3 - 3 Tie
Wrist shot -
4 - 3 WSH
Wrist shot -
5 - 3 WSH