Heading into this game, you wouldn't expect goaltending to be the story. However, it was exactly that on this night as both netminders were stellar, but it came down to which team would be opportunistic on offense. That team was the Washington Capitals, not the New York Rangers, making the analysis on this contest quite easy for me.
The Rangers, I felt, were the better team in the first period. They outshot the Caps 12-9, had superior chances and solid goaltending from Alex Auld. However, it was the man in net for the Capitals who was making the difference in the game. Jose Theodore, who originally was not expected to start tonight, was phenomenal, reminding me of Lundqvist against the Penguins on Thursday when he made a career high 50 saves in the game. Alex Auld wasn't too bad down the other end, either, only allowing an Eric Fehr tap-in with the final seconds ticking off the clock in the period. That, in my opinion, was the defense's fault, though, not Auld's.
In the second period, once again, the Blueshirts seemed to be the better team until they were burned by the Caps in their own zone, leading to Eric Belanger placing a shot between the wickets of Auld. On this particular play, the Rangers were standing around and watching instead of going to their man. Because of this, Belanger was able to walk right in, camp out in the slot, and wait for the perfect passing to end up on his blade. You would think that this team would know not to stand around against offensive talent, but nope, same mistakes, different day.
New York was not able to gain any momentum in the third period thanks to a series of foolish penalties. First it was Dubinsky who was guilty of a penalty that your coach isn't going to be happy with while trailing with only 4:06 remaining in regulation. Gaborik followed that up by somehow being sent off to the box on a 2-on-0. They basically gave themselves no chance at making a last minute comeback.
Continue Reading after the Jump>>Alex Auld was remarkable tonight in his Rangers debut. It is not an easy task to hold the Washington Capitals, who have goal scorers on their third and fourth lines, to just two goals. Auld made 26 saves on the night and did not deserve to lose this game, much like Lundqvist did not on Thursday. With all that said, Alex is going to give the coaching staff a heart attack if he continues to play the puck at the blue line.
The top skaters on the ice for the Rangers in this one were Erik Christen, Jody Shelley, and Brandon Prust. Surely not players you would expect to have a major impact, but that was the case at the Verizon Center tonight. All three created scoring chances, but they played with a gritty physical edge and John Tortorella loves to see that in his lineup.
The story of this game was Jose Theodore. There really is not much more to it than that. The Rangers did an excellent job generating opportunities on offense, but each and every time Theodore was immaculate. Once Jose stopped the Blueshirts on numerous chances during the third period powerplay, I felt the game was over because clearly nothing was going past this guy. Even Marian Gaborik, who returned from injury, was not able to bury any of his three shots on goal.
It may not be the main attraction tomorrow, but the Rangers will be hosting the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden. They cannot afford to give up two points yet again as we approach the home stretch here.