By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011; 12:48 AM
The Washington Capitals haven't struggled to prevent their opponents from scoring lately but as they found out once again Monday night against the New York Rangers, they must give themselves something of an offensive cushion in order to prevent teams from wrestling control of the game away from them late in a contest.
New York scored on a fluky bounce with fewer than seven minutes remaining in regulation to tie the score, force overtime and eventually a shootout where the Rangers prevailed 2-1 over the Capitals at Verizon Center. Artem Anisimov scored the winning tally in the fourth-round of the tiebreak to hand Washington its seventh consecutive defeat in games that extended beyond regulation. The Capitals have lost nine of their last 10 outings that concluded in overtime or a shootout.
The low-scoring affair against the Rangers might not have required any of the extra sessions had the Capitals been able to take more shots and create sustained pressure against New York goaltender Martin Biron who made 22 saves, but only faced 11 shots through the first 40 minutes and six of his total stops came in overtime.
"We've been passing up shots to create plays," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought there was four or five times where a defenseman had it or a forward had it and we'd fake a shot that we had a good direct line [toward the net] and go for the better play. You can't do that. You score your goals by shooting the puck and going to the net. That's how they got theirs and that's how we got ours."
Washington managed to capture at least one point for the fifth straight game but missed out on the valuable addition of another and through 50 games, the Capitals have 63 points - two behind Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division lead.
Coming into the matchup against the Rangers, who handed Washington its most demoralizing defeat of the season in the form of a 7-0 loss back on Dec. 12, the Capitals emphasized the need to wear down a relatively young New York defense by cycling and creating a territorial advantage in the offensive zone.
The Rangers, despite having eight of their regulars out with injuries, still thrived off blocking shots and challenging any Washington player that had the puck.
New York, which is second in the NHL with 805 blocked shots on the season, got in front of 18 attempted shots by the Capitals on Monday.
"If you look at their history, they're a team that plays really well with blocking shots," said Matt Hendricks, who scored the Capitals' lone tally in regulation. "They're getting in shooting lanes, they're very defensive. They're in our defensemen's faces, in our forwards' faces and it was hard to get rubber on Biron."
From the beginning, the third meeting of the season between the two clubs had the trappings of a low-scoring battle of attrition. The opening 20 minutes passed without many opportunities on either side.
While the focus of restricting an opponent has not been a novel concept to the Capitals lately, their inability to sustain much pressure in the offensive zone was readily apparent.
Despite scoring more than just three goals once in the past 14 games, Washington has routinely had quality opportunities to up the ante on the scoreboard; that was not the case against the Rangers.
Even so, with 1 minute and 27 seconds gone in the second period, Hendricks broke the stalemate when he tipped the puck past Biron off a smooth set-up pass from Marcus Johansson on the right-side boards.
The goal was Hendricks's second in as many games and marked the third consecutive time that Washington scored first and boosted its own momentum early.
The inability to add to that lead - including two failed chances on the power play that brings the unit's success over the past 20 games to 5 for 67 (7.5 percent) - would leave the door open for the Rangers though.
At 13:19 of the third period, the puck bounced off Holtby's blocker then ricocheted off Marian Gaborik's stick and possibly another part of the Ranger winger before making its way over the goal line to tie the score at 1.
The play was reviewed to determine if the puck connected with Gaborik's stick at a level that was above the crossbar but the goal stood.
Aside from the caroming puck - that not even the Rangers realized went in the net until several seconds later - Holtby put forth another solid outing in his seventh NHL start. He made 28 saves against the Rangers and has stopped 87 of 90 shots in three consecutive starts since Jan. 20.
"It's one of those shots you kind of have to wait until the last second because you don't know if he's going to deflect it or not," Holtby said. "It hit my blocker and went up into his body. I assumed it stayed in his body, but it hit his stick and went up in the air. It was one of those unlucky bounces."
That ricochet forced overtime, where the Capitals pushed to ensure a second point on the night, taking six out of seven shots, but they couldn't prevent the game from heading to the shootout.
Capitals note: Boudreau said he did not expect any of Washington's injured players - including Alexander Semin, Tom Poti, Matt Bradley and Michal Neuvirth - to return prior to the all-star break.