The Washington Capitals took on the New York Rangers in their second-last meeting of the regular season. The Rangers have certainly had the Capitals’ number this season, having won four of their six matchups this shortened season.
The real story of this game, however, was all the players the Caps were missing from their lineup. The day began with Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson as game-time decisions, as they have missed the previous two and four games, respectively, as a result of lower-body injuries.
Then, it was reported that T.J. Oshie would miss tonight’s game due to a personal matter.
THEN, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov were scratched due to “disciplinary reasons” because they were late to a team function. This meant that Craig Anderson was backing up Vitek Vanecek.
AND THEN, Justin Schultz was determined to be out due to a lower-body injury.
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It appeared as though the Capitals would be icing the local peewee team in order to fill in the gaps. Fortunately, Ovechkin and Carlson were present during warmups and would play the game (sort of).
To the surprise of just about everybody, it was the Capitals who struck first (and they did it twice). The first goal came from Nic Dowd on a slick play from line-mates, Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin. This would be Dowd’s 10th goal of the season which sets a new career-high for goals in a season by the fourth-line centre.
He would be followed shortly after by Conor Sheary, who buried his 13th of the season with assists from the new-comer, Michael Raffl, and Tom Wilson. This jumped the Caps out to a 2-0 lead with about five minutes remaining in the first period.
It wouldn’t last, however, as noted Caps-killer, Mika Zibanejad, exactly 18 minutes into the first period.
The period would end 2-1, with Washington leading in shots 15-10.
The second period got off to a rough start for the boys in white as Tom Wilson went to the box less than two minutes into the period. On the ensuing power play, noted Caps-killer, Zibanejad, scored on a one-timer to tie the game up at 2.
Then, about two minutes later, the Rangers score again on a 2-on-1. This time it came from their young guns, Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrieniere. Peter Laviolette called a timeout after the goal was scored.
What this period lacked in excitement for the Capitals, it made up for in controversy for the Capitals. After a puck was put on net and Vitek Vanecek was in a full splits, chaos ensued in his crease. This chaos resulted in Wilson slamming Pavel Buchnevich into the ice and punching him in the side of the head. Afterwards, of course, everyone on the ice got involved and Wilson and Artemi Panarin met up. Wilson proceeded to slam Panarin on the ice and punch him multiple times. When it was all said and done, Willy went to the locker room with four minutes of penalties and a 10-minute misconduct.
The Capitals actually played some hockey too, as Garnet Hathaway scored with 1:30 remaining in the second period to tie the game at 3 (30 seconds shy of a McNugget Minute goal). This would be the final score entering the third period.
The shots were 26-21 for the Capitals.
The D.C. team seemed to have dialed it in a little more in the third period, as they struck a little under five minutes into the period. This time it was Daniel Sprong scoring in his fifth-consecutive game to make it a 4-3 hockey game. This goal came from the sticks of…nobody. It was an unassisted tuck for the young sniper.
After about seven minutes of play, it was Nicklas Backstrom who scored a beauty to make it 5-3 for the good guys. He received the puck on a beautiful feed from Raffl, who tallied his second assist of the game. Nick Jensen had the secondary assist.
It would be the guy who was at the centre of everything in the middle of the game who would close it out, as Wilson buries the empty-net goal to make it 6-3 with 1:25 left in the game.
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The Caps outshot the Rags 14-5 in the third period, and 40-26 overall.
This was an impressive win for the Capitals (despite everything that took place in the second period), considering they were without the services of a good chunk of the top half of their roster. It was a solid, character win headed into playoffs after back-to-back losses. With this win, and Boston’s win, the New York Rangers were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
The Capitals have a rematch with the Rangers on Wednesday night