The New York Rangers shot themselves in the foot this evening and as a result, they were defeated 5-2 by the Washington Capitals. Costly mistakes wound up costing the Rangers all game long, and once again, they were unable to string together consecutive wins. This has been a long trending theme over the last dozen games, and shows just how inconsistent the Rangers have been this month.
As we've learned over the years, patience is often key with the Rangers, but, this downswing has gone on far too long for it to be a slump. The most concerning part is that we are past the halfway mark of the season, and the Rangers still have yet to find a groove they are comfortable with heading into the final stretch. Unlike previous seasons, parity throughout the league has all but three teams in the Metro within at least seven points of a playoff spot.
The Rangers cannot afford to slide much further, otherwise they will be looking in from the outside of the playoff picture. This is where Jeff Gorton will have his first real test with this Rangers team, with a little over a month left until the trade deadline. Something needs to change fairly quickly if the Rangers expect to compete for a spot in April and hopefully make another long run.
Unlike last game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers actually had a fairly aggressive start to this game and came away with the first goal. After breaking his scoring slump last game, Chris Kreider notched his eighth goal of the season on a pretty deflection at the top of the crease. Brayden Holtby had no idea where the puck went after it was redirected in front, and it gave the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.
However, a little over eight minutes later, the Capitals responded with a goal of their own coming from none other than Alex Ovechkin. Dylan McIlrath attempted a last ditch shot block attempt on Ovechkin's initial shot, but wound up overplaying it a slight bit. That allowed Ovechkin to corral the puck once again and fire a quick wrist through the legs of Antti Raata.
A little later on in the second period, the Capitals were able to add another pair of goals to extend their lead to 3-1 at the 8:20 mark. The first goal came courtesy of Marcus Johansson after he was left all alone in front of the net, and converted on a tap in from Nicklas Backstrom. Exactly a minute later, Justin Williams caught a deflection in front of Raanta, and the puck slipped by to double up the Capitals lead.
With the Rangers looking for some sort of push back, Chris Kreider slammed home his second of the game to bring the Rangers back within a goal. After a frenzy developed in front of Holtby, Kreider was able to locate the loose puck and fired it over the glove. At that point, the Rangers appeared poised to make some sort of a comeback, but that attempt fell short early in the third period.
A costly turnover by J.T. Miller in the defensive zone handed Evgeny Kuznetsov the puck, and he hit Justin Williams on the backdoor with a beautiful pass. All Williams had to do was get the puck on net and he gave the Capitals a 4-2 lead early in the third period. The Rangers had numerous opportunities to get back in the game, but Philipp Grubauer stood tall in Holtby's absence.
Finally, with a little under two minutes remaining in regulation, Justin Williams capped off the hat trick by scoring on the empty net and sealed a 5-2 win for the Capitals. Yet again, the Rangers followed up a big win with a loss and their roller coaster-like season continues. As previously mentioned, something needs to change for the Rangers moving forward, and hopefully that help comes sooner rather than later.
The Rangers will be back in action on Tuesday night when they welcome in the Vancouver Canucks to Madison Square Garden.