F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 12/29/11 at 03:38 PM ET
Given the poor starts the Capitals have had in recent games, it was understandable to be concerned for the arrival of the high-flying Rangers on Wednesday. Maybe the game against the Sabres was a wake-up call because the Capitals were clearly more prepared for this game.
Between the Pipes: The last time the Capitals tangled with the Rangers, the Caps were completely outplayed in a 6-3 loss. In that game Michal Neuvirth gave up 6 goals on 33 shots while Henrik Lundqvist only needed to make 18 saves to get his team the W. This time around both teams opted for a goaltender change. After Neuvirth’s poor performance against Buffalo, Vokoun got the start against Martin Biron, who was giving Lundqvist the night off. Even though Biron is no longer the goalie he was in the 2008 playoffs, he is still quite capable, entering Wednesday’s game with a 7-1 record.
Goal Recap: The Capitals got on the board first thanks to a Marcus Johansson tap-in. Following a Del Zotto turnover, MoJo entered the zone and left a drop pass for Jeff Halpern. Halpern’s subsequent shot was saved by Biron, but the rebound was picked up Johansson who had a wide-open net, where he quickly placed the puck. 1-0 Capitals The Rangers would tie it almost 10 minutes later at the hands of Brandon Dubinsky. Following a blocked Carlson shot by Callahan (like it would be anybody else), Dubinsky took the puck the other way. Carlson, in his attempt to transition back, tripped over his own feeting, leaving Wideman to defend Dubinsky and Mitchell. Dubinsky went top shelf to level the game. 1-1 The Capitals would take the lead for good at the midway point of the 2nd thanks to Troy Brouwer. Having previously missed a wide-open net, Brouwer was looking for redemption as he camped out in front of Biron. An attempted clear by Boyle was stopped by Carlson, who promptly fired a wrister at the net where Brouwer deflected it into the net. 2-1 Capitals For the remaining half of the game, it was the Alex Semin show. He struck first just 3 minutes after Brouwer. With the Rangers in transition, Ovechkin stood Brad Richards up at the blueline, freeing up the puck for Backstrom. Backstrom quickly hit Semin, who had gotten behind the Rangers’ D, for a breakaway. Semin quickly faked a slapper before going backhand. 3-1 Capitals Semin would put the final nail in the coffin with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game. Ovechkin entered the zone down the LW boards and immediately drew the attention of 3 Rangers. He made the right decision to throw the puck across the ice, where Semin picked it up with ice for days. Del Zotto could not recover quickly enough as Semin fired a half-slapper just under that bar. Final: 4-1 Capitals
Missed Chances: While 4-1 is easily a good result against the Rangers team, the Capitals should have had more. In the first period, with the puck behind the Rangers’ net, Laich found some space in the slot. His eventual one-timer was labeled for high glove side, but it sailed over and out. Troy Brouwer found himself with an even worse miss near the end of the 1st period. With the Capitals on the power play, Brouwer occupied his usual spot in front of Biron. As Ovechkin fed a cross-ice feed to Backstrom, Brouwer rotated to be open for a back-door one-timer. Backstrom simply redirected Ovechkin’s pass back across the ice to the wide-open Brouwer. Biron, knowing Brouwer had him dead-to-rights did not even attempt a desperation save. Instead, Brouwer barely touched the puck as it slid right past him.
The Rangers had a few of their own opportunities go array. With the game still scoreless in the first, the Rangers were pressing. A Woywitka shot from the point went wide, but bounced to Anisimov, who was unmarked at the far post. Anisimov corralled the puck and had but a sprawling Vokoun to beat. Instead he could not get the puck off the ice, and Vokoun got a piece of it and cleared it from the crease. Another huge “miss” came in the 3rd. Trailing by 2, the Rangers found themselves on the PP, thanks to an elbowing call on Dennis Wideman. With 5 forwards on the ice, Marian Gaborik fired a shot from the point bounced around before coming to Callahan down low. Callahan attempted to get the puck from skate to stick, but his stick never touched it as it went from skate to goal. After review, the goal was waived off.
Next Up: On Friday, the Caps will get another shot at the Buffalo Sabres, this time at home. The Sabres also played last night, and were beaten 3-1 by the New Jersey Devils. It is crucial that the Caps build off this win and try to put a little streak together to make up their lost ground.
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Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.