There wouldn’t be any bailout plan for the Washington Capitals on Friday afternoon as they became a product of their own mistakes.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored a pair of goals and Rangers captain Ryan Callahan recorded three assists to boost an 18-save performance by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and overwhelm the home team. Goals by Troy Brouwer, John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin — his first tally of the season at Verizon Center — weren’t nearly enough in a game plagued by defensive miscues.
After playing a scoreless, even-keeled first period the Capitals fell into what has become a characteristic rut. A five-minute lull at the start of the second period yielded three New York goals and set the Capitals on their heels.
“We got scored on in bunches again,” Brouwer said. “We’ve got to find a way to make sure that we’re composed, we’re playing sound hockey when we get scored on. We had a couple shifts where we came out and had some good shifts, then they score a goal and they’re back in our zone, we lose our momentum.”
The Rangers’ first goal, by Marian Gaborik 3 minutes 37 seconds into the second, was the result of a turnover by Carlson inside the offensive blue line. The puck hopped over the Washington defenseman’s stick, giving Derek Stepan a chance to pick it up and set off on a two-on-one with Gaborik, who ripped a one-timer into the right corner of the cage.
When rookie forward Cody Eakin took an untimely holding penalty, New York needed only nine seconds of power-play time before a shot by Artem Anisimov found its way through traffic in front and eluded Michal Neuvirth (27 saves) to make it 2-0 before seven minutes elapsed in the period.
The Rangers weren’t finished. Less than two minutes later, Marcus Johansson tried to skate the puck through the middle of his own zone but turned it over when pressured by Callahan, making way for an easy shot by Fedotenko, who made it 3-0 with his first goal of the contest.
In a span of 4:18, New York claimed firm control.
“I think we try and we work hard but not hard enough. Every time we made a mistake it ended up in a goal,” Johansson said. “Just lost control of the puck. I wanted to give it to my winger, I fanned on it and it’s a very bad play and it can’t happen.”
Washington finally responded 58 seconds after Fedotenko’s goal. The play started with a big hit by Ovechkin on Gaborik that drew Brian Boyle to the star Ranger’s defense. With two New York forwards distracted along the left-side boards, Nicklas Backstrom picked up the puck and fed Carlson for a shot from the slot. Brouwer shoveled in the rebound.
Carlson redeemed himself further for the costly mistake that led to the game’s first goal when he ripped a shot from the high slot past Lundqvist while on a power play 12:52 into the period. The goal made it 3-2 and snapped the Capitals’ 0-for-32 drought on five-on-four power plays dating from Nov. 8 against Dallas.
But Washington couldn’t parlay those goals into more steady defensive play. Dennis Wideman and Brouwer lost a battle in the corner to New York’s duo of John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin, who dug the puck out and sent it to Boyle in the left faceoff circle. Neuvirth made the initial save but the rebound ricocheted off Roman Hamrlik’s stick back to Boyle, who scored to make it 4-2 with just more than three minutes remaining in the period.
“Us just having the small lapses, I think, is just a little hurtful at times,” Capitals forward Joel Ward said. “The fact that we’ve been giving up those opportunities at crucial times . . . has hurt us mentally a little bit and on the scoreboard.”
At the start of the third, Wideman carried the puck into the offensive zone and tried to deke his way through the Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. They stripped him of the puck and sent the rush the other way where Callahan threaded a pass through Hamrlik that Brad Richards finished to make it 5-2.
That would be the final shift for Hamrlik and Wideman, who were benched for the remainder of the game. Each finished with a minus-3 rating.
Ovechkin and Fedotenko would later add goals, but as Washington heads to Buffalo for the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday night, the lesson that lingers is one of trying to keep things simple.
“We’ve got to get it through to them that the risk isn’t worth the reward,” Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When we get into these spells — the Toronto game, this game, the Winnipeg game — that it’s not worth it. You live to fight another day. You get it deep, you win the battle and eventually something good will happen.”
Capitals notes: Mike Green missed a seventh consecutive game with a strained right groin muscle. The defenseman hasn’t skated since Nov. 11. . . .
John Erskine didn’t play for a third straight contest after falling on his surgically repaired left shoulder.