Sloppy Second – Washington played well in its own end in the first period of Friday afternoon’s game against the New York Rangers, allowing just five even-strength shots on goal and three while the Rangers held the man-advantage. None of them got past Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth. The Caps attempted 19 shots on goal to New York’s 18 and the period ended with Washington and New York tied at 0-0.
After that, things fell apart.
New York peppered Neuvirth with 15 shots on goal in the second period, including 14 at even-strength. The Washington netminder surrendered four goals in the second, and that proved to be all the offense the offensively starved Blueshirts needed in a 6-3 win over the Capitals.
The first three of those goals came in a span of just 4:18, staking the Rangers – who had scored a combined total of exactly one goal in their two previous games – to a 3-0 lead. The six-goal outburst was the most for the Rangers in any of their 19 games to date this season.
Washington spent stretches of the second hemmed into its own end, permitting scoring chances and keeping the Caps from getting much going in the way of an attack of their own.
“It seemed like that in the second period,” said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau when asked if it seemed as though the Rangers cashed in on all their chances. “Once it started, it was four goals. It just seemed to snowball.”
The Caps did mount a comeback, and they closed the gap to 3-2 midway through the second period on goals from Troy Brouwer and John Carlson. But New York’s Brian Boyle administered the dagger goal with just 3:11 left in the middle frame.
Neuvirth couldn’t glove Boyle’s initial shot, a puck that was deflected by Washington defenseman Roman Hamrlik’s stick. The shot handcuffed Neuvirth, but he still had an opportunity to glove it close to his mask and did not. The rebound fell in front and Boyle banged it home to make it 4-2 in favor of the visitors. The Caps were never within a goal of the Blueshirts the rest of the way.
“It hit Hamrlik’s shaft,” said Boudreau of Boyle’s initial shot, “and when [Neuvirth] came out to stop it, it hit it so it was like a change-up. He probably closed the glove twice.”
Brad Richards’ goal moved New York’s lead back to three goals at 5-2 early in the third, but Caps’ captain Alex Ovechkin countered that tally less than two minutes later with a beautiful wrist shot that beat New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist on an improbable 1-on-3 rush. But the Caps left Ruslan Fedotenko unattended in front, and he burned them for the goal that made it 6-3 midway through the third.
“We were playing the body very well again, I think,” said Carlson. “We were doing a lot of things that we were talking about right. Just a few lapses at inopportune times and they made us pay.”
The Rangers launched 21 shots in the second and 28 in the third, and they outshot the Caps by a 33-21 margin on the afternoon.
Tough Times – Last season, Neuvirth gave up as many as four goals nine times in his 48 appearances (45 starts), but game up more than four goals just once. That was in a 6-0 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center on Feb. 25.
This season, Neuvirth has been nicked for as many as four goals four times in eight appearances (six starts) and more than four goals twice already.
“I thought [Neuvirth] played a good first period,” said Boudreau. “I thought he was really on top. I just think he’s like a few of our players, there’s a lack of confidence in his game right now. So when they scored the two quick goals I think he was ready and if he had kept going, like the Carolina game when he only allowed one goal, he was superb the whole way.
“But it seems like they score in spurts on him, because his confidence isn’t … he’s not used to getting scored on. He’s not used to having a goals against average of what it is or a save percentage of what it is. We’ve just got to get him a little mentally stronger.”
“We’re getting too down,” says Caps defenseman Karl Alzner. “As soon as we get a goal scored against us, it feels like it’s the end of the world when it shouldn’t be. It’s just one goal and it’s bound to happen at least [once] every game. We’re killing our momentum by having them score and then they end up getting another one and that’s what happens when you take a couple shifts off.
“That’s our biggest issue right now; take five minutes off here and they score a couple of goals and our momentum is gone for the rest of the game. We’ve got to be a little bit tougher mentally right now.”
“One thing I was trying to get through,” said Boudreau, “because it seems like we start to feel sorry for ourselves. Then we score a goal and then we say, ‘Oh, we’re back into it.’ As we did [against the Rangers], and then we got a second one. I thought for sure we were back into it. And then boom, they get that one right away and we feel sorry for ourselves again. This is a league where you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just got to go out and suck it up and do what you have to do.”
New York vs. Neuvirth – The Rangers scored a total of just eight goals in five playoff games against Neuvirth last spring, and they managed just two tallies against the Washington goaltender in the three games played on Verizon Center ice.
Scoreless First – No one was surprised when the Rangers and Capitals played a scoreless stanza to start Friday’s game. Each of the first four games of last spring’s playoff series between the two teams was tied at 0-0 after the first 20 minutes of play.
Mike Green’s first-period marker in the clinching Game 5 at Verizon Center was the only first-period tally by either club in the five-game playoff set between the two clubs last spring.
Make Yourself At Home – Ovechkin scored his first home-ice goal of the season in the third period of Friday’s game against the Rangers. Ovechkin had gone 10 games without a Verizon Center goal until Friday. His previous regular season home tally came in a 5-2 win over Florida on April 6 in Washington’s final home game of the 2010-11 regular season.
Body Work – Washington registered a single-game season high 40 hits in Friday’s game against the Rangers. The Caps now have laid a combined total of 75 hits in their last two games.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears took a 3-2 road shootout decision from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night. Hershey got 22 saves from Braden Holtby in goal and a pair of goals from Ryan Potulny, his first two tallies of the season.
With the win, the Bears pulled to within two points of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the top spot in the AHL’s East Division.
By The Numbers – Carlson led the Caps with 24:11 in ice time … Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on goal and eight hits … The Caps had 17 giveaways to New York’s six. Dennis Wideman led in giveaways with five … New York won 57 percent of the game’s face-offs … Dan Girardi led the Rangers with 29:13 in ice time and ofur blocked shots … Artem Anisimov paced New York with seven shots on net … Girardi and Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with five hits each.