There’s an old saying that goes “it’s darkest before the dawn” or somesuch. Maybe the Caps need to engrave that mantra in the locker room, because this last stretch of games sure look as bleak as the Washington skies this morning; if the team lives up to its preseason hype in April, then this could be where things seemed bleakest.
New York Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist beat away all 31 Capitals shots last night for his fifth shutout this season as the struggling Rangers burst to life against a seemingly demoralized Caps team. “It is unfamiliar territory and I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “But as you can tell when you get down, teams aren’t feeling sorry for you. They’re pushing and piling it on. We have to figure out a way to get out of this before it’s too late.”
For most of the first period, the game was tooth and nail scrapfest that is somewhat common when these two teams meet up. Brandon Prust opened up the Rangers’ scoring with 2:03 left in the first when his shot from the side bounced off of Caps’ defenseman Tom Poti’s stick and behind goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Rangers then came back in the second, scoring less than a minute in and it was all New York from then, with two more goals before 5 minutes were up. Captain Alex Ovechkin broke out the fists halfway through the second period in an attempt to spark some life into the Caps, dropping Dan Girardi with a hip check and seeking out Brandon Dubinsky for some fisticuffs. Dubinsky obliged, hammering the Russian center with multiple rights and wrestled Ovechkin to the ice. The Rangers then scored on the resulting power play, making a 5-0 hole for the Caps to climb out of in the third.
Varlamov had 14 saves on 20 shots as the Rangers put the game away with two more goals in the third period. Once it was obvious the game was out of reach, Boudreau kept several of the team’s veterans off the ice. (Ovechkin left the ice in the third after being hit in the leg by a shot, but said afterward he was fine.) Boudreau couldn’t pull Varlamov because backup goalie Michal Neuvirth was still suffering from the flu. “Neuvy got sick before the game,” Boudreau told Caps writer Mike Vogel after the game. “We didn’t have time to pull anybody up and he couldn’t go in. We asked him and he was barely on the bench. That’s what happened. We couldn’t make the change.”
The loss is the Caps’ sixth in a row, the first time the team has had this bad of a stretch since March 2007. It’s also the fourth shutout suffered by the Caps in only 13 games; previously, the team has only been shut out four times over their last 190 games. “When you’ve lost six in a row, you get behind and you get deflated,” said Boudreau. “And so when they scored a couple of quick goals and when you’re not scoring as a group, you go, ‘Oh geez, what kind of mountain is this going to be to climb?’ and it gets more difficult. But that’s where you have to have resolve. That’s where you have to be defiant and not let it happen. But right now we’ve got too many guys that are feeling sorry for themselves.”
The Caps will have today off and a full practice on Tuesday before the Anaheim Ducks come to town on Wednesday.