Joe B: Caps edge Rangers in shootout

Joe B: Caps edge Rangers in shootout
March 25, 2013, 8:15 am
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In hockey terms, a shootout is often considered a game that ends up with a final count somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-6 and includes a ridiculous amount of scoring chances.  The Caps and Rangers played the first period like it was going to be one of those crazy, high-scoring games.  In the end, the game required a shootout to decide a winner and Washington came home a 3-2 winner.

The Caps had scored the grand total of two goals in their first two meetings with New York.  On Sunday they had two in the first 10 minutes.

Washington entered the game with the No. 1-rated power-play unit in the NHL.  When Ranger defenseman Anton Stralman committed a holding penalty, the Caps needed only 21 seconds to convert. Alex Ovechkin sent a rolling puck toward the front of the Ranger goal guarded by Henrik Lundquist.  It took a strange hop in front of the cage, smacked off Lundquist and bounced chest-high in the air where it rattled off Nicklas Backstrom and into the net.  A brief video review confirmed that it was a legal goal and a 1-0 lead.

Less than two minutes later, Ovechkin would get one for himself.  Steve Oleksy sent a wrister along the ice that the Caps captain managed to deflect past a startled Lundquist.  Ovechkin improved his goal-scoring streak to five consecutive games.

The Rangers, who have not been scoring very much at all, much less in the first period, got off the mat tonight.

The lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference cut the Caps lead in half at the 14:12 mark of the first period.  Aaron Asham, just back from the injured list, would move in on a two-on-one break with AHL call-up Kris Newbury.  Asham looked over to Newbury briefly before ripping a snapshot over the glove of Braden Holtby.

The Madison Square Garden crowd, which had been booing the home team in the first 10 minutes, was a lot more positive.

They would be giddy when their favorites were awarded a two-man power-play advantage late in the frame.  Jason Chimera and Karl Alzner took minor penalties 25 second apart in the 17th minute of the period.

The Rangers would cash in at 18:03 when Derek Stepan scored for the third time against the Caps this season.  This time it was a centering pass across the crease that glanced off the heel of Holtby’s goalie stick and into the goal.

So it was 2-2 after one period and we were on our way to 7-6, right? That would be wrong.

The game was scoreless for the balance of regulation time and overtime.  The Caps had their own five-on-three power play in the second period for 1:43, but did not turn on the red light.

Both Holtby and Lundquist were on steady ground after the first 20 minutes.  Holtby was called on to make five saves in overtime, including testers from Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik.

It pushed the Caps into a deciding shootout for the first time this season.

The Rangers chose to shoot first and Holtby closed the door on high-scoring Rick Nash in round one.

Matt Hendricks threw all of his favorite moves on Lundquist, but the goalie stopped his last deke to the forehand.

Ryan Callahan went next for New York, but missed the cage.

Alex Ovechkin was the first player to score with a powerful deke to the forehand that foiled Lundquist.

Derek Stepan needed to score to keep the Rangers alive and he would with a slick deke to the back and a roof-top finish.

In the bottom of the third round, Mike Ribeiro had a chance to ice the game, but Lundquist slammed his leg-pads closed.

In round four, Brad Richards just missed the net on the blocker side, which once again gave the Caps an opportunity to finish the contest and this time they would.

Backstrom moved in on Lundquist, his Swedish Olympic teammate, and threw a half-stop move in the high-slot.  As he kept gliding closer to the cage, Nicklas set his skates and snapped a shot over the glove of Lundquist to seal the deal.

Washington brought home six of a possible eight points from this crucial road trip.  They will carry a three-game win streak into their Tuesday night match-up with the New York Islanders.  Coverage begins with Caps Central at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.