Rangers Hand Caps First Regulation Loss

The Washington Capitals
and New York Rangers may not be the same two teams that met in the first round
of last year’s playoffs, but Thursday’s matchup followed the script that
allowed the Rangers to gain a 3-1 series lead last May. They blocked shots, got good
goaltending, and had some timely scoring to beat the Capitals Thursday night,
4-3.

The Caps started the evening strong when Alexander Semin capped off a give-and-go from
defenseman Brian Pothier with about ten minutes left in the first period. It
was Semin’s fifth goal of the season and tied linemate Alex Ovechkin for the
league lead. The hot start is nothing new for Semin, who had 10 points (6
goals) in the first five games of last season.

The Rangers would take
the lead in the second period with back-to-back goals by Ryan Callahan and Ales
Kotalik two minutes apart.

Nicklas Backstrom tied the game about eight minutes into the third period by beating Lundqvist on an innocent looking
dump-in from the red line. Four minutes later, Backstrom would strike again,
this time on the powerplay, to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead. The strike was the
powerplay unit’s only tally in nine chances, and, in head coach Bruce Boudreau’s
eyes, played far too much like individuals.

“We played as individuals instead of a
unit. That’s what happens. That’s what we talked about in between periods,”
Boudreau said. “If you’re going to play as individuals, you’re going to get
individual results and nothing’s going to happen.”

Rangers star winger
Marian Gaborik made the Capitals pay for their missed opportunities in the
third period by beating Theodore with two shots from the top of the slot to
give the Rangers a 4-3 lead they would never relinquish.

The Capitals’ biggest
question mark, their defensive play, struggled in the third period and gave up
a lead late for the second consecutive game.

After the game, Boudreau was
disappointed in the play of the veteran defense but felt the team as a whole
isn’t playing two-way hockey enough. Defenseman Tyler Sloan, who dressed as a
forward Thursday, agreed with Boudreau’s assessment.

“We have a lot of
talent here. Guys are very creative and they want to show that. That’s their
game,” Sloan said. “But you have to play defense first. If you play defense first and you
play it well, the scoring chances are going to come with this team.” 

On
the other side of the ice, the Rangers held Alex Ovechkin scoreless for the
first time this season and bottled up numerous other chances for the other
Washington forwards. The Rangers blocked 22 shots as a team and kept
the Capitals from using their creative offense to generate chances.

Washington captain Chris Clark felt it wasn’t
about the talent level, but rather the consistency of the team and the difficult
nature of playing well night in and night out.

““On
paper, we’re a top-two talented team in the league. We just have to show it. It’s
a long season,” said Clark. “The hardest thing is to do it every day. Consistency
is the probably the hardest thing we can do. It will be our toughest battle all
year.”

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