Both the Capitals and the Rangers were playing their second game in as many days as they faced off at Madison Square Gardens Sunday night to a sellout crowd. The Caps were looking to avenge their last three outings versus the Rangers, who have shut out Washington dating back to game six of their round one series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sitting in second and third place atop the Metropolitan division standings, the Capitals and Rangers both are looking to catch up to the first place Pittsburgh Penguins.
After a scoreless first period, Washington opened up scoring in the second as Jason Chimera pushed the puck past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist for his sixth of the year. Chimera’s line of Martin Erat and Joel Ward laid down an aggressive forecheck on the Rangers, who wilted under the pressure. The Caps improved their lead to 2-0 shortly after Chimera’s tally when Steve Oleksy put a long-range wrist shot behind Lundqvist. Oleksy, who was a healthy scratch the previous night versus the Nashville Predators, broke his 44-game goalless streak, dating back to March of last season.
Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer had an impressive showing in the second NHL start of his career and first career win as he stoned Rangers winger Ryan Callahan point-blank and stopped the follow up chance from Michael Del Zotto in the second. Grubauer had a number of impressive saves on the troublesome ice of MSG, going from post to post to preserve Washington’s lead throughout the night.
The Capitals showed a more energetic style in the second, generating a number of chances including a shorthanded opportunity for the dangerous duo of Chimera and Ward, who narrowly missed lengthening Washington’s lead as his redirect rang off the left post after cleanly beating Lundqvist.
Fortunately, it wouldn’t be long before the Caps would extend their lead to three. Mikhail Grabovski was awarded a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh was whistled for hooking the Washington centerman on a breakaway attempt. Grabovski scored the third goal of the game on the one-on-one opportunity when he teed up a wicked slapshot in front of Lundqvist, who had no chance to make the save as the puck sailed over him top corner glove side.
The excellent play continued into the third for Washington, as they stretched their lead to four when Washington rookie Nate Schmitt netted his second goal of the season unassisted.
Unfortunately, Grubauer’s dazzling performance would not earn him a shutout. The Rangers finally got on the board when Benoit Pouliot tipped in a puck blockerside behind the Washington netminder. While it appeared to be on a high-stick deflection, the officials ultimately upheld the goal and any hopes of a shutout were dashed,
Despite spoiling the shutout, the Caps would prevail as they captured the two points from the Rangers and remain in second place in the Metropolitan.
After falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 earlier in the week, the Capitals swept the weekend with back-to-back wins against the Preds and the Rangers. Both games were high scoring affairs, with the Caps asserting their dominance by notching the opening tally. Washington improved to 11-3 when they get on the score sheet first; hopefully, the trend continues.