The Washington Capitals have had a roller coaster of a season filled with streaks. Most of these streaks are not the kind that makes a head coach proud.
Some of the streaks have included losing eight games in a row, 12 games without scoring three or more goals, five straight games without registering at least 30 shots and last night's 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers marked the seventh straight overtime loss for the Capitals.
New York improved to 8-3 in games that extend beyond regulation. The OT loss was also the ninth in the last 10 for the Caps.
The Capitals offense was nonexistent, in fact, most head coaches would never think of sitting their No. 1 goalie against Alex Ovechkin and company. Especially if he recorded a shutout against them in the last meeting, but that is exactly what John Totorella did last night.
The Rangers' No. 1 goaltender, Henriq Lundqvist, would watch backup Marty Biron earn his fourth road win and eighth win overall in beating the Capitals.
The Capitals and Rangers played a defensive game last night that was reminiscent of games the teams played when they were in the Patrick Division together. Both teams played "grind it out tough in the corners" hockey last night at the Verizon Center.
While the Capitals are young at the blue line, the Blueshirts from Broadway boast the youngest defense in the NHL.
The Rangers' average age at the blue line is just 24 years old and last night they shut down a surging Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and the rest of the Capitals offense.
Washington had just 11 shots after two periods and just 17 after three periods. For the seventh time in the last eight games, the Capitals were outshot, this time 29-23.
Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau stuck with the hot Braden Holtby in goal for Washington and he did not disappoint. For the third consecutive game, Holtby allowed just one goal in regulation time and only a fluke goal prevented his first NHL shutout.
Holtby finished with 28 saves. In three games since his recall from the Hershey Bears, Holtby has stopped 77 of 80 shots.
The Caps would score the first goal for the third consecutive game last night but it didn't come until early in the second period after both teams stifled each other defensively in a scoreless first period.
Matt Hendricks scored his seventh of the season and second in as many games and although not like the highlight-reel goal he scored Saturday in Toronto, Hendricks put the Caps on top 1-0 when he tipped in a pass from Marcus Johansson just 1:27 into the middle stanza.
Holtby stopped all 18 Ranger shots through the first two periods but could do nothing about the tying goal with just under seven remaining in the game.
The Rangers' Marian Gaborik was in front of the net when Brian Boyle took a shot, and the rebound bounced off Gaborik and past Holtby. Gaborik and the Rangers did not even know they scored to tie the game.
The play was reviewed but the goal stood as the Rangers would clamp down and force overtime.
Gaborik said about the goal, “I felt it hit me and then I turned away and saw the guys celebrating," I didn't have any idea. I guess it was one of the lucky ones."
The Caps' Matt Hendricks concurred, “It was a lucky bounce, a fluke goal on their part, but they had been getting pretty close. They had a lot of shots. They were outplaying us in the attack zone.”
Despite playing without Vinny Prospal, Ryan Callahan, Alex Frolov, Erik Christensen and leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky, the Rangers played a patient, choking style of defense that was rewarded in the end with the shootout win.
The Capitals almost ended the game in the five-minute session. They were relentless firing six shots at Marty Biron and he came up big. Biron stopped the hot Alex Ovechkin on a blast, keeping his team alive for the shootout.
Ovechkin who after recording a hat trick on Saturday did not have a point against the Rangers.
While Holtby was stellar in regulation, he had to make just one save in the five minute overtime session. His youth would eventually rear its inexperienced head during the one-on-one skills competition that decided which team got the second point in the game
Holtby allowed three of the four New York shooters to deke him several times in allowing three shootout goals.
He tried several times to poke check the poke away from the Ranger shooters. He succeeded once but New York figured him out and would go on to win, collecting two points.
Wotjek Wolski opened the shootout scoring for the Rangers after Alex Ovechkin missed on a wrist shot. Matt Hendricks would tie the shootout on the next Caps try. Hendricks seemed to parlay his breakaway three-deke goal in Toronto on Saturday night into a shootout chance last night.
Mats Zuccarello would use three dekes himself in beating Holtby and putting the Rangers ahead. Nick Backstrom having to score to keep the Caps alive did just that tying the shootout at two.
The Rangers' Brian Boyle and the Caps' Marcus Johansson would each miss on successive attempts and after Johansson's miss, the Rangers' Artem Anisimov would end the game beating Holtby for the 2-1 Rangers victory.
The Capitals power play continues to be a power outage. They failed to score on two chances last night and are now just 9-for-85 (10.6 percent) over their last 26 games.
Despite the loss, the Caps have earned points in 15 of their last 18 but now only lead the Rangers for the fifth seed by just two points in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals will travel to Atlanta to play the Thrashers on Wednesday, their last before the All-Star break. The Caps who have struggled against Atlanta this year (2-3) may be getting them at the right time.
The Thrashers have lost three in a row and 12 of their 16 games.
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