Alexander Semin recorded his first multi-goal game of the year, Alex Ovechkin (two assists) posted multiple points for the first time in 24 games and tallies by Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer powered Washington’s offense. Tomas Vokoun finished with 31 saves in his first start since Dec. 13 but more important than any individual outing was the fact that the Capitals appeared to be reading the same program when it came to the game plan.
“Everybody played,” said Coach Dale Hunter, whose record is now 6-6-1. “It’s up to them on the ice to do the little things like blocking shots, taking a hit on the boards to get it out of our own end. . . . We did it very well tonight. We were physical on the boards and got pucks out, the team sacrificed their body to win.”
While there were times that the Rangers threatened throughout the contest and forced defensive breakdowns, Washington got a few lucky bounces and didn’t allow itself to become rattled and instead relied on the simple, chip-and-chase plays that they have resisted in recent games to help them escape tough situations.
Slow starts have been a recent bugaboo for the Capitals and for early portions of their contest against New York it looked like the trend might continue. The Rangers controlled the play early, caused Washington to scramble in its own zone but they couldn’t cash in on their best opportunities — including a confidence-building stop for Vokoun on Artem Anisimov to keep the game scoreless before seven minutes had passed.
“Tomas made some big saves when we needed it,” Jeff Halpern said. “I think overall we did a good job.
“I’m sure there’s some areas we want to improve on but I thought we did a good job of having some jump and trying to establish a forecheck to at least set the game up for us.”
Washington weathered the scoring chances and would be the first to crack the scoreboard. After a turnover by Rangers’ defenseman Michael Del Zotto, Johansson gave the Capitals’ a 1-0 lead 8 minutes and 18 seconds into the first when he fired a rebound into an open cage. The rebound New York’s backup goaltender Martin Biron (19 saves) left following a shot by Halpern allowed Johansson to record his first goal in 21 games.
The goal offered a spark for the Capitals, whose strides started to look a little stronger as they won battles for the puck and checked with a little more intensity against a New York squad with the reputation for grit and cohesion.
“All through the lineup guys were just playing tough not letting guys get free passes in front of our net playing hard on our cycle,” Brouwer said.