There was a brief moment in the second period where Alexis Lafreniere set up Kaapo Kakko for a beautiful goal that had fans excited about the future. A brilliant play from Lafreniere, who patiently held onto the puck and stepped around Zdeno Chara before making a wonderful backhand pass for a sweet Kakko finish that made it three straight goals for the Rangers.
At that point, they led after trailing by two early Caps’ goals. Mika Zibanejad remembered to show up with two goals including one on the power play off a great Ryan Strome feed. Then, you had the 2020 top pick combining with the 2019 second pick on a highlight reel goal that put the Blueshirts in front 3-2. For that one moment, you felt good about the team even though they were missing the postseason.
It all vanished into thin air rather suddenly. Once Tom Wilson decided to bully Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin following a save from Vitek Vanecek, they got exposed by the NHL version of Max Cady. Unhinged following a roughing minor on Adam Fox that resulted in a Zibanejad power play goal, the psychotic Wilson went after Buchnevich post whistle. After knocking him down to the ice, he punched a defenseless Buchnevich face down. It was a mugging on 33rd and 8th.
That wasn’t all. After Strome got involved in the scrum, Artemi Panarin jumped on top of Wilson, who was only too happy to manhandle the Rangers’ leading scorer. He threw him down to the ice and delivered a cheap shot on Panarin, who left the game with a “lower body” injury. Mind you this all happened while the Rangers were on a power play. Wilson’s despicable actions had no repercussions. He was assessed a double minor for roughing and misconduct, earning 14 penalty minutes. They didn’t eject him. Instead, he had a evil grin standing up in the penalty box like he was a proud guilty criminal on trial.
The ugly display was sickening. Wilson took both Buchnevich and Panarin off what became a five-on-three power play. Brendan Dillon was also involved with Buchnevich and got two for roughing. That’s where the complexion of the game changed. While Wilson got off easy for his chaotic antics, the Rangers were unable to score on the abbreviated five-on-three. Even if it was for only 27 seconds, they never made the Capitals bully pay.
Of course, nobody made Wilson accountable for his actions when he returned two minutes into the third period of a tie game. Tied due to the gritty Washington fourth line completely manhandling the Rangers’ Zibanejad line on a dominant shift. Nic Dowd easily took the puck away in the corner and then Garnet Hathaway had three cracks at it before his backhand rebound beat Igor Shesterkin on just an awful shift. One where K’Andre Miller got beat and then both Zibanejad and Vitaly Kravtsov were lost in coverage. Hathaway’s game-tying goal from Dowd came with 90 seconds remaining in the second period.
Most humiliating was that the Rangers had no response to Wilson in a pathetic third that saw the Caps outscore them 3-0. Remarkably, it was the Capitals that scored four unanswered including a Wilson empty netter that was a fitting way to end an ugly game. Wilson got the last laugh. Who cared if he absorbed a couple of clean checks from Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell. Like that’s going to bother him. He picked up a goal and assist along with 16 penalty minutes including the chaotic scene that boiled over in Rangerstown. It was downright sad.
Playing without tough customers Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren and power forward Chris Kreider, the Rangers had no one who could respond to what Wilson did. Maybe just Brendan Smith. But he had his own issues when a flubbed pass up the middle allowed Daniel Sprong to score unassisted at 4:37 of the third on a shell shocked Igor Shesterkin. That proved to be the game-winner.
It was mostly the Caps’ grinding secondary scorers that did in the Rangers. Dowd scored and set up a goal. Conor Sheary scored a goal set up from ex-Flyer Michael Raffl and the universally loathed Wilson. Former Blueshirt Carl Hagelin assisted on a goal and was on for another as part of the very effective Washington fourth line. Hathaway got his sixth on a ridiculous defensive sequence that may as well have been a bad flashback to the prehistoric times during the Dark Ages (’98 thru ’04). Then you had Sprong getting his 12th on a gift from Smith.
This game was all about the lack of toughness the Rangers don’t possess. As humiliating as the Islanders debacles were in getting shutout by a combined 7-0, this was worse. They were so Charmin Soft that MSG Network may as well have gotten KFC And Carvel to sponsor this fiasco. Because that’s what it was. A total and complete FIASCO! You talk about a sad result. They went out like a bunch of chickens. It doesn’t make me happy to say that.
I want to see this team respond. They have one more game against the Caps. If Mason Geertsen isn’t recalled to go after Wilson ‘if’ the joke that is NHL Player Safety doesn’t discipline him, what does that say for the Rangers organization? On Pride Night no less, they got the pride kicked out of them by one player. What pride was there in seeing this team pushed around? I’m sick of it! Many loyal fans are.
I don’t care what is said about Wilson. Trying to compare him to a Raffi Torres or Matt Cooke isn’t applicable. He lost his cool. But let’s not act like he committed an assault. He’s a polarizing player who enjoys getting away with this crap. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the NHL suspends him. I want him to be accountable for his actions. If the Rangers have any backbone, Geertsen will be in the lineup on Wednesday. I want retribution. An eye for an eye. Mobb Deep style. I don’t normally advocate violence. What I would like to see is Mason Geertsen versus Tom Wilson. One on one. That’s the only way to settle these disputes. Not through suspension. Think Wilson won’t try it again next season?
If John Davidson and Jeff Gorton don’t address the lack of team toughness and grit this off-season, then they’re completely lost. This vanilla cupcake stuff doesn’t work. You can’t have Wilson running around going after our team’s best players. Even the mild mannered Steve Valiquette called him out for this crap. He even texted former Blueshirt enforcer Colton Orr and revealed what he said. Then Valiquette called Wilson an idiot. There was nothing wrong with it. It sure beats his usual statistical Chartographology analysis. Sometimes, you must pull no punches. That’s exactly how Dave Maloney reacted as well. What was Wilson thinking? His asinine cheap shots could lead to a suspension which might include the first round. But does anyone think Player Safety has the balls? We know better.
It’s very hard to recap anything else about this game. It truly is an embarrassment to fans of this team. They want to say thank you for sticking with them on Fan Appreciation Night? Then get Geertsen up and go after the punk Wilson. And win the damn game. Enough of the cliches about going out the right way. This was PAAAAA–THHHH—ETTTT—-IC!