Washington fell, 2-0, at Verizon Center, a harsh reminder there is still much to improve upon as they were thwarted — again — by the Rangers. The Capitals (2-5-0) have failed to score a goal against New York in the teams’ past three meetings dating from last year’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Defenseman John Moore and captain Ryan Callahan scored for New York in its second victory in six games. Meanwhile, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who entered the contest with an uncharacteristic 4.21 goals-against average and .887 save percentage, finished with 22 saves. He has made 84 consecutive against Washington dating from last spring, but on this night he was not extremely tested.
Washington mustered a grand total of 14 shots on goal in the final 40 minutes and spent the majority of that span trapped in its own zone trying unsuccessfully to gain possession for any length of time. While being outshot 31-16 at even strength is indicative of the offense the Capitals were able to generate, the larger concern Wednesday was the defensive zone.
“We’re getting chances; we’re not burying them,” Karl Alzner said. “Defensively, it’s like a fire drill in there. We’re not doing a good enough job at our system, what we’re supposed to do. And when we don’t, we’re leaving a guy in front. We’re getting beat out of the corner. It’s been bad in the D zone. It’s been frustrating.”
There was a rapid pace to the first period, but it wasn’t exactly the strong start the Capitals were looking for. New York outshot them 6-1 to open the game, but there was a greater balance to the imperfection as both squads turned the puck over repeatedly.
Washington appeared to catch a break near the midway point of the first when Anton Stralman was whistled for hooking, soon to be followed by Taylor Pyatt for the same infraction. Pyatt’s minor gave the Capitals a five-on-three for 55 seconds, but the vaunted power play, which entered the contest ranked first in the league (36.4 percent), was unable to convert. In 2 minutes 21 seconds of five-on-three time this season, Washington has been unable to score.
For a team that has struggled offensively at even strength — the Capitals have only eight such goals this season — squandering power-play opportunities carries significant weight. That proved to be the case against the Rangers.
“We still have plenty of time to regroup and make a difference, but we didn’t,” Alex Ovechkin said. “They score four-on-four winning goal, and we try to put pressure on them, but we didn’t.”
While the teams exited the first period scoreless, the second period offered little progress for Washington. Defensive miscues such as failing to clear the puck, making errant passes, missing assignments and simply not skating to recover from errors were rampant.