With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here. If you missed them last night, check out the game story from the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the Rangers and more on how the penalties that piled up cost them.
>> In the final two periods against New York Sunday night, the Capitals weren’t without opportunities to help their cause on the scoreboard. After Carl Hagelin’s goal made it 1-1 with 7:39 gone in the second period and then Derek Stepan’s gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead less than five minutes into the third, Washington was able to generate offense it just wasn’t able to cash in.
Arguably the two best scoring chances came within three minutes of each other in the second period by winger Wojtek Wolski. Immediately after a power play in the middle stanza, Mathieu Perreault found Wolski driving to the net in the slot but Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turned the shot away with his blocker.
With 5:22 remaining in the second, Nicklas Backstrom sent a pass over on a two-on-one but he missed the net wide. Wolski had already missed the target once that period.
“Just kind of a little behind me, and I thought I could go across the net because I assumed that he would probably push pretty hard to come towards my side,” said Wolski, whose last goal came seven games ago against Philadelphia on Feb 1. “I just missed the net twice and there was two great opportunities that should be goals.”
The Capitals had three power plays after Hagelin’s goal, moved the puck with imposing precision and recorded six shots against Lundqvist during those six minutes but never solved him. Lundqvist turned away blasts from the left circle by Alex Ovechkin, who also missed the target twice on the power play.
“We had a couple of one-timers that we should’ve hit the net. It’s tough,” said Backstrom, who said he thought Washington created the chances it wanted to on the power play.
“It’s tough. I think we started off pretty good, but then they took over when they got those power plays in the first,” Backstrom said. “And then they played better than us, I think. And then we were trying to force a goal there.”
>> Both of the New York goals came on defensive breakdowns by the Capitals. After engaging with Hagelin behind the Washington net, Tom Poti drifted away from the left wing and toward the boards where the puck went on to Rick Nash.
The Rangers’ key offseason acquisition found Ryan McDonagh up top and the defenseman’s shot arrived at the crease while Hagelin was still unchecked by Poti.
“We had a couple of chances to get it out. We didn’t,” Poti said afterward. “I was just trying to step up and Nash made a great play and Hagelin kind of snuck behind me there.”
>> In another case of drifting out of position, John Carlson found himself drawn up ice on the penalty kill by Brad Richards on the play that led to Stepan’s goal. New York’s veteran center beat Jay Beagle on the faceoff and drew the puck back to Nash, who skated left to right along the blueline with it bringing aggressive pressure from the Capitals’ grinder. The moment Beagle closed in on him, though, Nash flung the puck back toward Richards, who now stood a few feet in from the blue line on the left side.
Richards took a quick stride and faked a shot, which not only pulled Carlson up from his post down by the crease but got Matt Hendricks to commit to blocking a shot. Instead, Richards sent a pass to the right circle where Michael Del Zotto tapped it back toward the left post where Stepan was all alone.
Carlson reached to try and block the pass to Stepan but was too late to make a difference and as a whole, the Capitals’ penalty killing unit was victimized by rapid back-and-forth movements by New York’s power play across the ice.
“I don’t think we played that correct,” Oates said. “We’ll talk to the guys about it.”
>> There were some questionable calls both for and against the Capitals Sunday night, mainly how the officials missed Backstrom’s trip on Ryan Callahan in the first period yet called Karl Alzner for tripping Brad Richards in the third.
Alzner was clearly disappointed after the game that his penalty cost Washington in the form of the game-winning goal, but he acknowledged how the referee could see the play differently.
“It’s tough. I understand why he called it. The only thing you can hope is that he gives you the benefit of the doubt that it’s a hockey play,” Alzner explained. “I’m going to check a guy – I’m going to check him and he tries jumps over my stick or steps on it, whatever he does. You just hope that they read the play I read it, but they didn’t. It’s all you can do and hope that you get one back some other way some other time.”