Prior to Friday's game against the Washington Capitals, some New York Rangers spoke of how this game meant a little more to them because the Caps have been the team to end their season in two of the last three seasons. The Blueshirts' play matched their words and they played like a team with a chip on its shoulder, dominating the Caps 6-3 at Verizon Center. The win halted their mini two-game skid.
After seven wins in a row, the Rangers' play regressed over the last two games: they looked lethargic, failed to win puck battles and couldn't generate any offense. This team looked like as strong as it has all season. Aside from a second-period burst from Washington, there isn't much to get down about this game.
Want offense? The Rangers had five different goal scorers, three of which broke the one-goal schneid. After an exciting, defensive-oriented first period, the Caps and Rangers were scoreless. Henrik Lundqvist, who was sensational all game, made a number of key saves to keep the score knotted at 0.
Marian Gaborik began the offensive fury in the second period, roofing a one-timer via a nice saucer pass on a two-on-one from Derek Stepan. The Rangers would score twice more 4 minutes, 18 seconds. Artem Anisimov fired a slick wrist shot off of some great post-faceoff pasing to put the Rangers up two. Then, Ryan Callahan pressured the Caps' defense to cause a turnover and Fedotenko took the loose puck and boosted the lead to 3-0. It was Anisimov and Fedotenko's second goal of the season.
Just when you thought the game had the feel of a blowout, the Caps came right back, as Troy Brouwer cleaned up a rebound from John Carlson to get the home team on the board. Carlson scored a power play marker four minutes later to make it a game today. But, the Rangers' resiliency shown through as Brian Boyle's line -- with hard work along the boards from Carl Hagelin and John Mitchell -- created a goal, Boyle's second of the year. Hagelin also recorded his first NHL point, an assist, in his first game. The Blueshirts outshot the Capitals 15-9 in the second period, and took a commanding 4-2 lead into the final frame.
Whether the Rangers could wrap it up was answered early on in the first period as they remained energized, their forecheck was strong and they constantly pressured the puck. Brad Richards put the Rangers up three via Callahan's third assist of the game. Even though Alex Ovechkin scored a little less than two minutes later, not enough can be said about the job Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh did on him. Girardi did not give him any space to work with and constantly frustrated him; Ovechkin's goal was a wicked wrist shot and used Girardi as a screen. The stalwart defenseman also had two assists in the game. Fedotenko iced the game with his second tally of the contest, just over midway through the final frame.
For a team that was struggling to get shots on net and having trouble scoring goals, this game was a very positive sign. The defense was also very tough, only allowing 21 shots to get to Lundqvist. In total, the Rangers outshot the Caps 33-21. Coach John Tortorella was also able to roll four lines after Hagelin and MItchell joined the team in place of the suspended Andre Deveaux and scratched Erik Christensen. New York will face another very tough test Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers at home.