This loss is a tough one. Not because the Rangers were outplayed, not because they had a ton of defensive breakdowns that masked a strong performance, but because they controlled the majority of the game and still managed to lose. Dan Girardi’s third period post on the 4-on-4 foreshadowed the impending doom that was the Eric Fehr game winner late in the period.
The Rangers managed 60% Corsi and Fenwick possession rates this game, but Phillip Grubauer (who now splits starts evenly with Braden Holtby) made some key saves –38 of them– when needed in addition to puck luck rearing its ugly head again. Special teams actually worked in the Rangers advantage, killing three of four Washington power plays (considering that unit, 75% is solid) and converting on one of three power plays. But controlling play doesn’t get you the win unfortunately.
On to the goals:
Caps 1, Rangers 0
With Washington on the powerplay, Martin Erat worked the far boards, drawing Mats Zuccarello down below the hash marks. Ryan McDonagh was drawn over to help, leaving Girardi alone in front (covering the man behind the net in case he cuts to the front). Due to this, Derek Stepan was forced to come to the high slot to cover Troy Brouwer. That left Mike Green wide open at the point, who ripped the Erat pass right by Cam Talbot. Not many goalies stop that shot.
Rangers 1, Caps 1
Zucc made a pair of solid plays on this powerplay. First he forced a turnover behind the net to allow the powerplay to set up, then he recovered a loose puck behind the net to keep the zone. Eventually the puck worked its way to Brad Richards, who had his head up the whole way and saw Benoit Pouliot in front ready for a deflection. John Carlson was not taking the body, and Richards’ wrister was placed perfectly for the easy deflection goal.
Caps 2, Rangers 1
Michael Del Zotto turns the puck over, “shooting” his pass right by McDonagh in the defensive zone, allowing the Caps to pick up the puck at their blue line. Steve Oleksy fired the puck back in the zone that McDonagh slows but doesn’t stop, allowing Nicklas Backstrom to collect the loose puck for the breakaway.
Rangers 2, Caps 2
Girardi laid a big hit on Brouwer behind the Rangers net, allowing McDonagh to pick up the puck and clear the zone. But McDonagh didn’t just clear the zone. He kept his head up, and saw Carl Hagelin cutting behind the Caps defense, and he flipped the puck from behind the goal line perfectly to Hagelin’s stick on the Caps blue line for the breakaway and shorthanded goal. That pass was a thing of beauty.
Caps 3, Rangers 2
Hagelin turned the puck over in the offensive zone with a blind pass to the front that the Caps picked off. This led to a two-on-two rush with Backstrom and Eric Fehr. Fehr’s wrister from the top of the circle beats Talbot clean. This is one that Talbot probably wants back. None of the pictures came out clear on this, sorry about that.
The Caps won the game, and wins are obviously the most important thing here. But the Rangers did not play a poor game by any stretch. They absolutely dominated the Caps at even strength, creating that 60% Fenwick advantage mentioned earlier in this breakdown. Unfortunately, the club couldn’t solve Grubauer enough to make it count. This is one of those losses that is tough to swallow, but you feel better about it because they did a lot of the right things here. But this is a team that will not win unless their top guys are scoring. They are not.