Caps top the Rangers 4-1 as Grubauer gets first NHL win
NEW YORK – After falling to the New York Rangers in consecutive playoff series and getting badly outplayed by them back in October, the Capitals needed a statement game in Madison Square Garden Sunday night.
They got one.
Led by unshakable 22-year-old rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer’s 30 saves, the Caps dominated the Rangers in every aspect of their 4-1 victory.
“I had a lot of fun,” Grubauer said after leading the Caps to their fourth win in five games and coming within 1:53 of his first NHL shutout. “Olie [Kolzig] told me [I was starting] after the game on Saturday. It’s basically like every other game. Once the puck drops it’s business. It felt like I was in the zone and the guys helped me out.”
The Caps, who blocked 17 shots in front of Grubauer, built a 4-0 lead on even-strength goals by Jason Chimera [his sixth], Steve Oleksy [1st], Mikhail Grabovski [9th] and Eric Fehr [5th]. The Rangers scored their only goal with just under 2 minutes left when Benoit Pouliot scored on a deflection.
“We felt really bad that one went in,” Chimera said. “The guys on the bench were talking about getting it deep. We don’t want to get scored on.”
The Caps grabbed a 2-0 lead when Chimera and Oleksy scored 25 seconds apart in the second period, but it was Grabovski’s penalty shot goal with 1:34 remaining in the second period that put an exclamation point on the win.
Grabovski was awarded the penalty shot when he was hooked from behind by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
“To tell the truth,” Grabovski said, “I didn’t think it was going to be a penalty shot.”
Grabovski was 0-for-3 in career penalty shots -- he says two of those attempts came against Lundqvist - and he made up his mind before he touched the puck that he would skate to the hash marks and tee up a slap shot.
“I decide right away,” he said. “He’s a tough goalie to move side to side. So I just shoot. I was a little bit lucky.”
The shot rocketed into the top right corner before Lundqvist could react. Capitals coach Adam Oates smiled when asked about the goal.
“What do you want me to say?” Oates said. “It takes a lot of guts to pull that off and he did. Good for him.”
“That’s a great shot,” Oleksy said. “It’s tough for a goalie. It’s either going to hit him or it’s going to go in.”
Oates said he challenged his team after the second period to “close the door” and they did just that in the third period, forcing the Rangers to play much of the period in their own end, taking the crowd out of the game and sending the Rangers into a post-game, players-only meeting.
“You can talk all you want,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after his team fell to 15-15-1. “Right now we are a .500 hockey team. … I thought our compete level was a .500 compete level.”
Brad Richards, who managed just two shots, agreed.
“We are just floating along and it’s getting old,” he said. “We win one, lose one, win one, lose one. Whatever it is we’re doing it’s way too comfortable.”