Rangers 3, Capitals 2
Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig was the reason his team was able to overcome a two-goal deficit, force overtime and then survive 14 rounds in the shootout.
But Kolzig was helpless to stop the Rangers' 15th shooter, a defenseman who hadn't scored all year. Marek Malik skated in close, dropped the puck between his skates, stuck his stick between his legs and flipped the puck over Kolzig, lifting the New York to a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.
"I didn't expect that kind of move from a defenseman shooting 15th in the shootout," Kolzig said. "I'm more upset I didn't stop [Jason] Strudwick, who was coming down on his off wing. All I had to do was hold the middle of the net, and he would have hit my blocker. Instead, he had the whole right side of the net."
Kolzig was referring to the turning point during penalty shots. After Capitals defenseman Bryan Muir scored in the 14th round on Henrik Lundqvist, a stop by Kolzig at the other end would have ended the game. But Strudwick, another defenseman not known for his scoring touch, beat Kolzig over the blocker to extend the shootout and set up Malik's memorable move and the Capitals' second straight shootout loss.
"I just wanted to surprise him," Malik said. "I'm really happy it went in. Olie is a good goalie. I'm happy for the team."
Andrew Cassels and Brian Willsie also scored for the Capitals in the shootout. But the game might not have been lost there if the Capitals had converted a power play at the start of overtime. The Washington bench questioned the curvature of former Capital Jaromir Jagr's stick, and after the referees determined the stick blade was indeed illegal, the Capitals were awarded a four-on-three power play. But they couldn't get the puck past Lundqvist, who made 35 saves. Kolzig made 24 stops at the other end.
Though the ending was disappointing, the Capitals took some solace in earning a standings point after trailing 2-0.
"We easily could have hung our heads," Kolzig said. "But we kept battling back. I feel we should have won the game."
Capitals rookie Alex Ovechkin, meantime, was the most dominant player on the ice, recording a game-high nine shots on goal in his Garden debut. He was limited to an assist, however, and missed a penalty shot for the first time in five opportunities.
Saturday, the Capitals' checking line of Ben Clymer, Brian Sutherby and Matt Bradley gave Jagr little room to work his magic. Jagr had only three shots, two of which came in overtime after being motivated by the illegal stick penalty, and did not record a point.
Washington dominated the first period, outshooting the Rangers 17-4. But the Capitals still found themselves down 1-0 because of yet another glaring blow up along the blueline where, on the power play, Muir had the puck stripped off his stick by Jason Ward, who beat Kolzig between the leg pads at 17:16.
The second period began four-on-four, and the Rangers quickly used it to their advantage. Jed Ortmeyer banged in a rebound to give his team a 2-0 lead 14 seconds into the period, but it didn't stay that way for long.
The line of Clymer, Sutherby and Bradley continued to keep Jagr in check, Kolzig continued to make big saves and the Capitals' attack finally got to Lundqvist.
First, Chris Clark redirected a slap shot by Jamie Heward over the Rangers' sprawled goalie to bring the Capitals within 2-1 at 3:32. Ovechkin also got an assist on the goal.
About seven minutes later, Matt Pettinger worked the puck down low and attempted to jam the puck underneath Lundqvist. The rebound popped out to Willsie, who whipped it in from point-blank range to tie the score at 2.
Capitals Note: Defenseman Brendan Witt left the game in the first period with a leg injury. He returned later in the first and started the second period, but didn't return after departing again midway through the second. The rugged veteran played six shifts in the first and three in second.