The Rangers continued their dominance over the Southeast Division today, knocking off the Caps by a score of 4-1. The Rangers started off slow –par for the course– but really turned it up in the second period, scoring twice to make it three unanswered goals (en route to four). Martin Biron was solid in net, and the powerplay continued its success. This was another solid game for the Rangers, who have now won five of six. On to the goals:
Caps 1, Rangers 0
There’s not much to really break down on this one. Marcus Johansson out-muscled Taylor Pyatt at the half boards, which honestly shouldn’t have happened. Since Johansson kept the play alive, the Caps were able to work the puck to the point for a shot by Steve Oleksy. Ryan McDonagh was tied up with Joel Ward in front, and it looks like the shot just evades Martin Biron. He probably wants that one back, even though it appeared that he took a stick from Ward to the mask as the shot came in (per Andrew Gross).
Rangers 1, Caps 1
After two Caps collided in the offensive zone, McDonagh, Marian Gaborik, and Derek Stepan had a nice passing play to break out of the zone. The Rangers eventually wound up with a 3-on-2 when Alex Ovechkin tried to hit Stepan and missed. Stepan wound up with the puck at the top of the circle with a clear shooting lane (picture above). Instead, he danced around ex-Ranger farm hand Tomas Kundratek, and drew Braden Holtby out of position. As Stepan went behind the net, he banked the puck off Holtby’s skate (he wasn’t hugging the post), and the puck went right in. The Caps actually defended the 3-on-2 well, but the Rangers still wound up with the goal.
Rangers 2, Caps 1
Brian Boyle, welcome back to the Rangers. Boyle had some great chances on this shift, and he made this goal happen in conjunction with Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers cycled the puck well, and eventually worked the puck to Boyle behind the net. McDonagh pinched in and Boyle got the puck to him, which forced Ovechkin to respect the possible shot. Instead of shooting, McDonagh gave the puck back to Boyle, who noted that Ovechkin was now out of position. Boyle patiently waited until Ovi attempted to get back to position. The resulting screen on Holtby gave Boyle all the room he needed.
Rangers 3, Caps 1
This powerplay goal was set up on the previous powerplay. If you recall, the Rangers –specifically Michael Del Zotto– were ripping shot after shot from the point. They didn’t score, but it forced the Caps to respect the point shot. Fast forward to this goal, and the Caps had to respect the shot from MDZ, This leaves passing lanes open. MDZ hit Rick Nash at the top of circle. With Ryan Callahan in front for the screen, Holtby didn’t have a chance. This goal was initially credited to Nash, but they gave the goal to Cally at the start of the third.
Rangers 4, Caps 1
Hagelin forced a turnover at center ice, and after a few passes the Rangers wound up with several opportunities. A Michael Del Zotto shot got stopped, and Michal Neuvirth gave up a juicy rebound to Rick Nash. His shot was stopped, but no one picked up Brad Richards at the back door (Marcus Johansson’s man). You can’t give up two juicy rebounds and leave the back door open and not expect to get burned.
The Rangers, winners of five of six, have the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets this week before a Saturday showdown with Pittsburgh. Those two games are easily winnable, which would give the Rangers wins in seven of eight heading into Pittsburgh. These are big points, as the Rangers now sit in second place in the Atlantic Division.