Caps Fall to Rangers in Shootout

Photo courtesy of
‘Matt Hendricks’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
A late fluky goal led to a shootout loss for the Caps, marring an otherwise strong defensive performance and a stellar evening for Matt Hendricks last night at Verizon Center. The Caps took a precarious one-goal lead into the third period against the New York Rangers only to let victory slip away. The Rangers managed to tie the game late in the period, then outlasted the Caps in a high-scoring shootout to win 2-1.

The last time these two teams faced off in Madison Square Garden on December 12, the Rangers handed the Caps the worst pounding of painful 8-game losing streak. This time, the Caps showed up ready to play … except they forgot to shoot the puck. The registered only one shot on goal in the first 12 minutes of play, and only 11 shots through the first two periods. “We’ve been passing up shots to create plays,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “You score your goals by shooting the puck and going to the net.”

Photo courtesy of
‘Braden Holtby’
courtesy of ‘bridgetds’
Caps’ goalie Braden Holtby, called up from the minor leagues last Wednesday, played a solid game. In only his seventh NHL start, the 21-year-old netminder made 28 saves in his third straight appearance for the Caps.

Early in the second period, the Caps were able to get on the scoreboard. Center Marcus Johansson found Matt Hendricks streaking down the slot and sent a laser pass to the top of the crease. Hendricks extended his stick and redirected the puck high into the corner of the net past New York netminder Martin Biron for a 1-0 lead. Hendricks finished the game with five shots and three hits, and now has a two-game goal scoring streak. Not bad for the guy who leads the team in PIMs.

The Caps are still trying to find a balance between explosive offense and solid defense. In the third period, the Rangers dominated play with the Caps registering very few shots on goal. But a team effort on defense prevented New York from generating quality scoring chances. The Rangers finally tied the score at 1-1 with six minutes remaining in regulation on a fluke goal that ricocheted off several players and over Holtby’s head before trickling across the goal line. Marion Gaborik was credit with the goal, but he appeared not to know it had gone in the net. “It hit my blocker and went up into his body,” said Holtby. “I assumed it stayed in his body, but it hit his stick and went up in the air. It was one of those unlucky bounces.”

In overtime, the Caps’ offense finally came alive as the defense joined the rush and all four skaters crashed the net. After generating no more than six shots in any 20-minute period in regulation, the Caps suddenly cranked out 6 shots in the 5-minute overtime period. Biron made several spectacular saves to force the game to a shootout.

Holtby’s inexperience caught up with him in the shootout. The first two Rangers shooters stickhandled until Holtby over-committed, then slid the puck into the open net behind him. Hendricks and Nicklas Backstrom scored to force a fourth round. Artem Anisimov deked past Holtby to win it for the Rangers. Boudreau was pleased with the rookie’s performance. “When you hold a team to one goal, for 29 shots, I thought he did really well. It was his first shootout in this league. He wasn’t nervous. He was a just little overly aggressive.”

The Caps next home game is against the Montreal Canadiens on February 1.

Will Packard

Will moved to DC 33 years ago to go to college and never left. By day he is the director of finance at an interactive marketing agency near Dupont Circle. When not hanging out at Kettler Iceplex or Verizon Center, he can often be found out rowing on the Potomac River or searching for the perfect burrito.

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