Their last trip to New York on Dec. 23 marked the coming-out party for goaltender Jose Theodore.
The Caps were coming off an embarrassing 7-1 loss in Philadelphia in their previous contest, a game in which Theodore allowed four goals on only 15 shots after coming on in relief of Brent Johnson.
Theodore would struggle again in the opening period against the Rangers, giving up three goals before leaving in favor of Johnson. However, Johnson was heavily favoring an injured hip, so head coach Bruce Boudreau had no choice but to re-insert Theodore back into the game to start the second period.
After giving up another goal early in the second to put the Rangers up 4-0, Theodore would put on a spectacular performance the rest of the way. Feeding off his regained confidence, Washington would rally from a four-goal deficit to win 5-4 in overtime.
Theodore was 6-3-1 with a sparkling 2.18 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage during the month of January, finally living up to the expectations bestowed upon him after signing a two-year $9 million contract this past summer.
"I'm not surprised," Boudreau said. "He's an MVP, a Vezina Trophy winner. I just think it was all acclimation. Sometimes you have to hit the bottom before you realize. And now he's playing as well as any goalie in the league."
The Rangers have been struggling as of late, losing their last five games including a 10-2 blowout loss at Dallas last Friday, and a 3-0 shutout loss to the Devils on Monday night. But even though they are down, Boudreau isn't about to take the losses lightly.
"Anytime we play the Rangers, we're worried," Boudreau said. "We think they're an elite team. They're going through a spell much like we think Montreal's an elite team and they're going through a downturn. Most teams have them during the course of the year, the question is when do they bounce out of it. We would like them to bounce out of it this weekend if they don't mind."
"I think usually when a team is struggling to score goals they are really going to push hard offensively," Theodore said. "The last game they played a solid game against New Jersey, so I'm sure they are going to come out really strong playing at home. We have to be ready."
"If you go into a bit of a slump, it's tough to catch up," defenseman Mike Green said. "Then you start getting down, not only as a team but as individuals and then it's just a spiral from there. Hopefully we take advantage of it tomorrow and we don't let them get back up on their feet."
A win on the road would also be significant in that it would give the team a winning record away from home for the first time this season (12-12-3).
The Caps will most likely be without forward Viktor Kozlov, who should miss his third consecutive game with a groin injury. Alex Semin also left practice early today after sitting out of practice yesterday. However, Boudreau said, "He's nursing an injury, but he should be fine."
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