After last night's disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers responded tonight with a huge 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals. With Henrik Lundqvist sidelined for the night, Antti Raanta got the nod and put up quite the performance against the East leading Capitals. Raanta turned away 32 total shots, including a sprawling save on the goal line midway through the third period.
When Raanta returned to action a few weeks go, he clearly had a bit of a shaky start, but since then, he has been lights out. Being that Lundqvist's status is still up in the air at the moment, it's good news for the Rangers that Raanta has found his game again. They may be needing him a few more times down the stretch. With the Rangers having a rough outing in Pittsburgh last night, they were looking to get off to a quick start.
As a result, they really set the tone early in the game, and absolutely dominated the Capitals all throughout the first period. Then just five minutes into regulation, Jesper Fast was rewarded after paying the price in front of the net, and gave the Rangers the early 1-0 lead. The goal came off of a broke play in front, by Fast did an excellent job of getting position, and banging home the rebound when the puck came loose.
Nearing the end of the period, the Rangers were awarded their second power play of the game, and they found a way to double up their lead. After holding the puck in the Capitals zone for a majority of the power play, Keith Yandle wired a shot from the point, and it flew over Braden Holtby's shoulder. Chris Kreider did an excellent job in front of the net to set the screen, and because of that, Holtny never even saw the initial shot.
Even with the Rangers up 2-0 at the end of the first period, they still had their work cut out for them as the Capitals always find a way to claw back. Sure enough, the Capitals answered with a pair of goals during the second period, and knotted this game up at two. The first "goal" came courtesy of Jay Beagle, who apparently chipped the puck home after a mad scramble in the crease.
The initial call on the ice was no goal, and rightfully so, as the puck didn't appear to cross the goal line. However, after review, the war room in Toronto deemed that the puck crossed the line and ruled it a good goal. Given that there was no conclusive evidence, the call was a bit surprising and it almost felt like the NHL "assumed" it went in the net. Either way though, the goal counted, and the Rangers found their lead cut in half.
With about 40 seconds remaining in the second, T.J. Oshie caught the Rangers with a slow backcheck, and broke in on a 2-on-1 odd-man rush. Marc Staal was unable to get in front of the shot, and Oshie wired the puck under the crossback to make it a 2-2 game. Despite the Rangers playing relatively well, it was disappointing to give up a two goal lead, especially heading into the third period.
Thankfully, the Rangers were able to answer early in the third period. Derek Stepan wound up catching a fortunate bounce after shooting the puck, and it deflected in off of a Capitals defensemen. Holtby was unable to react after the puck changed direction, and the Rangers regained a one goal lead. That goal wound up being the game winning goal, as Raanta and the Rangers were able to hold off the late push by the Capitals.
As disappointing as it was on Thursday night, the Rangers made up for it with a gutsy performance against the Capitals. The Capitals rarely lose games like that, especially at home, and that win was as big as it gets for the Rangers. However, the Rangers can't spend too much time thinking about the win, as they will have another tough matchup on Sunday against the New York Islanders.
We're getting down to the final stretch of games here, and these next several games are going to be extremely important. Tonight's performance was certainly encouraging.