Caps top the Rangers 4-1 as Grubauer gets first NHL win
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals enjoy a day off after back-to-back wins over the Nashville Predators [5-2] and New York Rangers [4-1]:
What it means: The Caps grabbed sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division with 34 points, three ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes and Rangers, four ahead of the New Jersey Devils and six ahead of the Flyers. They are also seven points behind the first-place Penguins.
Dethroning the King: After going 10 straight periods of hockey without scoring a goal against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the Caps managed to score twice in a span of 25 seconds in the second period of Sunday night’s win at MSG. Jason Chimera pitch-forked the puck through a maze of arms and legs for his sixth goal of the season and first since that 7-0 blowout win in Philadelphia on Nov. 1. And Steve Oleksy snapped a seeing-eye shot past a screened Lundqvist for his first goal of the season. “They are a skilled team,” Lundqvist said. “Every time you play them, if you lose the puck in the wrong area they are going to come and make some good plays to get in front of you. That second period is what killed us.”
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Spreading the wealth: After seeing his team open up a three-goal lead, Capitals coach Adam Oates rolled all four lines for the entire game, giving Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle more than 8 minutes of ice time.
Angry combatants: Alex Ovechkin and Rick Nash exchanged some gloved punches to the face in the second period, prompting Ovechkin to smile after the game and say, "It was fun." Defenseman Karl Alzner and Rangers forward Chris Kreider also had some angry words after Kreider jabbed his stick into Alzner's groin section in the third period.
Trade talk: With the NHL’s Dec. 19-27 trade freeze fast approaching, it will be interesting to see if the Caps satisfy trade demands by forward Marty Erat and defenseman Dmitry Orlov, each of whom have played well in their last three games. Philipp Grubauer has offered a very small sample size, but he gives the Caps’ additional depth between the pipes which could make backup Michal Neuvirth a valuable commodity if he can avoid stepping on pucks.
Look ahead: The Caps are off today, although there is a chance Brooks Laich and Michal Neuvirth will get on the ice to test their lower body injuries. Oates said Laich will not play Tuesday against the Lightning. Since Laich would probably like more than just two practices with the team, it seems likely he would sit out Friday night’s visit to Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers, possibly making himself available for back-to-back games against Philadelphia.