Photo credit: Rob Carr
Shutout and embarrassed by the New York Rangers. Now where have I heard that before? The Caps certainly did their best December 12 impression on Friday night, with the added twist of dropping the game in front of their home fans, who didn’t respond kindly.
“I am absolutely not happy,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I mean our fans deserve better. That’s three games in a row at home. You know, we deserved to get booed there. It’s not fun when you come home and you got the best fans in the world and you play like that.”
The first action in the contest came when Jason Chimera delivered a hard check along the boards to the Rangers’ Michael Sauer, who didn’t take well to Chimera’s rough play. After a little back and forth the two dropped the gloves with neither getting too much of an upper hand. Just under six minutes into the game the period got ugly for the Caps. It started when Mike Green and Derek Stepan went for the puck in the corner with Stepan catching Green with an elbow. The recently injured Green immediately hit the ice, clutching his head before heading to the locker room as soon as play stopped. Just seconds after Green’s injury Steve Eminger gave the Rangers the lead, as the puck knuckled past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth. At 14:47 in the period Sauer got into the action again setting up Erik Christensen in front of Washington’s net, putting New York up by two. The Capitals would get a chance to rally when Alex Ovechkin skated down the wing, beat Ryan McDonagh, and fired a shot on Rangers ‘keeper Henrik Lundqvist as he slid down the ice on his rear. Sounds familiar, eh? This time, however, Ovi was unsuccessful.
In the second frame, things would only get worse for the Capitals. At 4:19, while on the power play, Christensen would pot his second of the night, set up by an excellent backhand pass from Ryan Callahan. The Caps in-game entertainment crew responded by playing “Unleash the Fury” much earlier than usual. But that did little to stop Washington’s poor play as later in the period Stepan would extend New York’s lead to four after a misplay by Neuvirth.
In the third, the Rangers put a five-spot on the Caps when Vinny Prospal flicked a wrist shot over Neuvirth’s shoulder. But that wouldn’t be it. Brian Boyle would extend the lead once again in the waining moments of the game. Are you still reading? Rangers rout Caps, 6-0.
- More on the biggest news of night, the headshot Mike Green took from Derek Stepan. After Green cross-checked the rookie behind the net, Stepan raised his arm and struck Green square in the jaw with a hit in the corner. Bruce Boudreau said after the game that the Capitals young gun was “day-to-day” and that he will not travel with the team to Long Island. Concerning the blow, it was an unnecessarily aggressive play by Stepan and, some would argue, a dirty one as well. Boudreau, however, seemed indicate he was not of that mind. Regardless, one wonders why none of Green’s teammate stood up him, especially rough-and-tumble John Erskine, who had a front row seat on the play. Once again, the Caps best defenseman will be shelved, with Green only playing 2:25 of ice time since coming back from his last injury.
- It feels almost wrong to single out one player for their poor performance tonight, but Boyd Gordon was especially bad in his 10:03 of ice time. Gordon was on the ice for zero scoring chances for while being on the ice for six against, four of which led to Rangers goals. New York’s second goal of the game, Christensen’s first of the night, was due particularly to his bad coverage in front of the net and his failure to back up his teammate. After Karl Alzner went for a big hit on Boyle in the corner, Alzner failed to get back to his position in front of the net. Gordon tentatively stayed in no man’s land and Christensen got the easy lay up.
- Alex Semin took a stick penalty. Not much new there. Still, Sasha Minor’s ill-advised hook led to goal number three. The biggest shock? Boudreau sent him back out one shift later. Lesson learned?
- If you’re feeling grumpy about Eminger scoring tonight just remember he was the guy the Capitals traded to move up in the 2008 draft, selecting John Carlson. Do you feel better? Didn’t think so.
- Mike Vogel reports that the Capitals current streak of 38 straight games without scoring more than one power play goal is a franchise record.
- Nicklas Backstrom took just one faceoff, an offensive zone draw against Brandon Dubinsky which the Swede won. Boudreau indicated after the game that Backstrom was simply too sore to go at it in the dot and added that he “showed so much courage playing” through his injury.
- The chances of the Capitals being shutout by the Rangers 0-7 and 0-6 in two of out four games? 15,158 to one.
- Alex Ovechkin looked like the only Capital who gave much of a hoot tonight. He had eight shots, six hits and had several dazzling moves, one of which drew a penalty. However, the turning point of the game could have been his failure to score on a 2-on-1 with Mike Knuble early in the first period. If his shot would have squeaked through Lundqvist’s seven-hole, the tide might have turned.
- Worth noting: the Capitals only managed two even strength chances in the game’s final 13 minutes, down five goals for most of that time. They completely gave up down the stretch, instead of showing some pride. And when you put out an embarrassing effort like that, Verizon Center’s going to look like this.
- Only four Capitals players (Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson) made themselves available to the media after the game.
This was simply an awful showing from the men in red.
“It is just crazy how many goals they put in against us,” Knuble said. “It is not fun for us. Is it something they are doing? Are they that great offensively? Or are we really breaking down? That is for all of us to decide in our room.”
“I think it’s probably the worst home loss I have been associated with in ten years plus,” said Boudreau.
Now, the team is left to pick of the pieces from this disaster and move on.
“It has been a little bit maddening for us,” Knuble said. “We haven’t been able to mount a sustained streak. We have had streaks in losses. We have sustained those, but not the winning ones. To gain ground this time of year you have got to throw two, three, four wins together… it is not who we are. We are better team than a team that loses one, wins one, win two, lose two. We are a better team than .500 hockey. That is for sure.”
Said Matt Hendricks, “Well, there are answers out there. We are going to find them.”
With only 20 games left this season, those answers can’t come soon enough.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland and Neil Greenberg.