If this had been a prize fight, they would’ve stopped it early. The Caps win by TKO. A struggling team that had lost six in a row all in regulation, they demolished the listless Rangers in blowout fashion, winning a game that was never close by a score of 6-3.
The final tally was misleading. It was pure dominance by a desperate team who’s seen their playoff chances decrease. After trading key cogs Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway to Boston, the Capitals were looking for anything positive headed into Saturday’s early matinee.
They found it thanks to the Rangers, who lost a season worst fourth straight game. Technically, it’s three in a row. The first defeat came at Calgary in overtime. Right now, they can’t get out of their own way. There are too many defensive issues plaguing the team as we approach the much anticipated trade deadline.
With the potential for a Patrick Kane deal imminent, the Rangers pawned off Vitaly Kravtsov to the Canucks for William Lockwood and a seventh round pick in 2026. Essentially, it was a salary dump of a 23-year old player whose value severely decreased in large part due to how things went this season.
If you actually care to read about that story, you can refer to what I wrote previously. I’m not going to rehash it. Kravtsov’s days had been numbered for a while. His $875,000 salary cap hit is off the books. That’s all he was worth.
Prior to the trade, the Rangers waived Jake Leschyshyn. That created more room on the roster. Leschyshyn was a placeholder. He played on the fourth line.
While much of the discussion centered around what was or wasn’t happening off the ice on ABC/ESPN, the Rangers humiliated themselves on national TV. They were brutal. There was again no structure, which led to many easy Capitals’ odd-man rushes in transition. They really made the Rangers pay for their lackluster play by outscoring them 4-0 during a mind-numbing second period.
The game was ugly. It got starred early. On an undisciplined tripping minor that Barclay Goodrow took in the offensive zone, the Rangers penalty killing unit swarmed Alexander Ovechkin. Although that part was good, they completely forgot about T.J. Oshie, who was left alone to tip home an Erik Gustafsson shot for a 1-0 Caps lead at 2:37.
With the Rangers scrambling around, the Caps continued to create scoring chances on Shesterkin. Despite getting chased for five goals on 22 shots with most of the damage coming in a dismal second period, he made several good saves. This isn’t on him. It’s about how poorly the team is playing in front of both goalies. Jaroslav Halak got victimized the other night.
Goodrow would make up for his early penalty. A slumping player who needed a goal in the worst way, he managed to redirect a Tyler Motte shot by Darcy Kuemper to tie the game at 8:00. It was his first goal since Jan. 16. That gets him to 10. Hopefully, that can be a confidence booster for Goodrow.
The ugliest part of the day came when Oshie delivered a tough hit on Ryan Lindgren. What made it so bad was that he crunched Lindgren right into the boards with his left arm exposed. Obviously, in a lot of pain, he immediately went to the locker room and never returned.
This could be a very serious injury. If early reports are any indication, the Rangers could be without the glue of their blue line for a while. It looked bad. Following the game, New York Post columnist Larry Brooks reporter that Lindgren had his left arm in a sling. He’s an important player who really makes a difference. If they’re going to be without him, that’s not encouraging.
On the following shift, Goodrow made Oshie accountable by dropping the gloves. It wasn’t that entertaining a fight. However, the message was delivered.
As far as the hit from Oshie, who immediately checked on Lindgren and apologized as caught on a live mic he was wearing, it’s hard for me to classify the heavy hit dirty. Of course, you never want to see any player get hurt. Especially one who’s as valuable to this team as the gritty warrior wearing number 55.
While Gerard Gallant voiced his displeasure during the postgame about the hit, indicating he felt it should’ve been a five-minute major, I happen to agree with former ref turned ESPN rules analyst Dave Jackson. The hit wasn’t from directly behind. It was one of those hits you see in the league where there’s not much that can be done. I’m sure it’ll continue to be hotly debated.
If there was a disappointing part of the game, it was the Rangers not grabbing momentum from what Goodrow did. They blew a golden opportunity. After Tom Wilson interfered with Niko Mikkola, Evgeny Kuznetsov slashed Filip Chytil, who went down in pain. They reviewed the penalty to determine if it was a major. However, they felt it wasn’t a spear. So, it went as a two-minute slashing minor.
The Rangers still had 57 seconds of a five-on-three. But they never made the Capitals pay for their indiscretions. Kuemper made one good save on a hard Artemi Panarin one-timer. He hardly had to work. The power play was too tentative. They didn’t attack the Caps three penalty killers the way they should have. That really came back to bite them.
In a perplexing period where the shots remained in single digits despite both goalies having to stay busy, the Rangers killed off a Mikola tripping minor for taking down Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
After having to fend for himself by stoning Dylan Strome and household name Trevor van Riemsdyk earlier, Shesterkin made two routine saves on Gustafsson and Kuznetsov. He also was fortunate that Lars Eller missed on an uncontested rush. That’s how defensively inept the Rangers were.
The second was a total meltdown. If you could burn the tape, you would. It was like watching the end of the Alain Vigneault Era. Easy Caps breakouts. Odd-man rushes. Point blank chances. They also buried four past Shesterkin, who was helpless.
Following key Kuemper stops on Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere, here came the Caps. On a play that was symbolic of what’s going wrong, Strome found a wide open Oshie in the slot where he beat Shesterkin over the glove for his second of the day at 3:16.
Even in a game where he was targeted following the big hit that knocked Lindgren out of the game, Oshie took his lumps. Jacob Trouba stepped up on him during a shift. It didn’t matter. Oshie simply played his game. That would also include an assist to give him a Gordie Howe hat trick.
While Shesterkin was left to fend for himself by having to stop another household name in Martin Fehervary, the Caps continued to expose the Rangers defense, which played without Lindgren. That meant Mikkola moved up with an ineffective Adam Fox, who had one of those games. It meant another dizzying performance from K’Andre [Poke Check] Miller. Trouba did what he could. That also meant Ben Harpur back with Braden Schneider. It didn’t go well.
Tom Wilson was able to score from in close to make it 3-1. Trocheck was too late. He’s playing with defensive wizards Panarin and Vladimir Tarasenko. Back Checking Optional.
There was a lot of intensity from both sides. Nick Jensen hit Filip Chytil and Kakko during a shift. Fehervary checked Kakko, who doesn’t like being hit. There was definitely animosity throughout. You could sense the frustration.
Chytil and Kuznetsov got into it during a scrum a couple of shifts later. Each went off for matching roughs. After Trocheck had a tip-in denied by a sharp Kuemper on an excellent Panarin pass, Shesterkin stopped Eller twice.
Back at even strength, Oshie just missed a hat trick with his shot ringing off the goalpost. Both Kuznetsov and Sonny Milano followed up on the rebound, with the latter able to stuff the puck across the goal line before Goodrow could prevent the Caps’ third goal of the period.
How bad was it? Even Dylan McIlrath got a shot on Shesterkin. He played solidly in nearly 16 minutes as an emergency call-up with Orlov gone. Let’s put it this way. Another former high Rangers first round pick, who never saw the time of day under Vigneault, looked more capable than many of our six remaining defensemen.
Kuznetsov would add to the misery late in the second when he got free to convert on a backhand from Aube-Kubel and Fehervary to make it four unanswered Caps’ goals. They led 5-1 after two.
With the Kravtsov news circulating, I couldn’t believe how little they got back. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. He hardly played recently. That was Gallant’s choice. It really hurt his value. I’ve seen many people only blaming Kravtsov due to what happened last season. That was near the end of 2021. If this was how it was going to be, why did they even bring him back? It never made sense.
By the third period, I had tuned out. The ESPN/ABC feed was horrible. The audio sounded like it was coming from a basement or sewer. It’s pretty embarrassing. Yikes. Not many people like their telecasts. But the Ray Ferraro hate is ridiculous. He’s a pro and is very good.
I did switch to ESPN Radio to listen to Don LaGreca and Dave Maloney. I like LaGreca. He’s always been a good guy who’s worked hard at his craft. Too bad be works with such a pompous blowhard during the week.
With the game all but decided, it was easier to listen to LaGreca call the action. The Caps tried their best to get the Blueshirts back in the game. Both Wilson and Strome received minor penalties with 14:14 remaining to hand them a full two-minute two-man advantage.
This time, Chris Kreider was able to cash in with his 25th goal when he redirected in a Fox shot to cut the deficit to 5-2 with still over 13 minutes left. However, the Rangers couldn’t convert on the second part of the power play.
Even though they played better in the third period, it was too little too late. Wilson and Ovechkin combined to send Kuznetsov on a breakaway against reliever Halak. He pulled a Forsberg to score for the second time with 6:38 left. That put it out of reach. It also was Kuznetsov’s fourth point of the game.
Gallant predictably sprinkled in some changes to his lines. He had Tarasenko take shifts with Lafreniere and Chytil. Kakko moved up to play with Zibanejad and Kreider.
In what was a goal in garbage time, Kakko put home his 12th from Kreider and Zibanejad at 19:32. It was just window dressing. Otherwise, what a forgettable game. Losing to a slumping team that’s looking to retool. The definition of a bad loss.
There’s nothing more to say. As Gallant and Trouba said afterward, it’s time to move on. The Kings visit MSG on Sunday. That’ll be the Rangers’ third game over four days. They need to respond. They’re lucky the Islanders laid an egg in a 3-2 home loss on Friday to those same Kings. Otherwise, the lead for third would be down to six.
Of course, they have more games remaining. Three more than the Islanders, who are in the first wildcard position with 67 points. But they only have 20 left. The Rangers have 23 to go. They’re still solidly in third place, six behind the Devils who are honoring their 2003 Stanley Cup team tonight.
If a trade happens, I’ll be back with more. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.