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Recap: Rangers Hold Off Caps, 5-3

Zibanejad scored two goals, Kane had two points, and Shesty had an assist (!)

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers took a break from their pseudo-series with the Penguins host a different Metro rival, the Capitals. Their year has been derailed by injuries, and aside from the regularly scheduled players on IR, they were also without Alexander Ovechkin and Sonny Milano tonight. And this is after selling at the deadline.

First Period

The Rangers potted the first goal of the game early. Mika Zibanejad carried the puck from the defensive zone, through the neutral zone, and into the offensive zone. He hit Vladimir Tarasenko wide, who put it right back on Zibanejad’s stick for a one-timer in the slot. The goal was Zibanejad’s 33rd of the season and first in the past six games. Despite the lull in goals, I do think Zibanejad and Tarasenko have some chemistry brewing at five-on-five.

The Caps tied it late in the period. Their fourth line moved the puck around the bend behind the net, and the Rangers defense simply could not hang. Four different Rangers were watching the Aliaksei Protas and the puck, so no one was watching the wide-open Nicolas Aude-Kubel. He received the pass and wired it past Shesterkin.

The Rangers answered immediately. Shesterkin did his best quarterback impression, whipping the puck high through the neutral zone to Artemiy Panarin. He drove wide and drew the defender before finding Zibanejad, who had plenty of room to deke around Kuemper with a forehand-backhand. What a cool goddamn goal. Maybe Shesterkin can be the Jets QB if Rogers doesn’t work out…

ith a few minutes in the period to go, Jimmy Vesey drew a penalty to put the Rangers on the man advantage. They moved the puck well and generated a few good chances, but it was Patrick Kane with a seeing-eye slapshot who extended the Rangers’ lead to 3-1. It was his 400th career powerplay point.

Second Period

Not content to stop there, the Blueshirts tallied another early in the second. Kane gained the blueline and handed the puck to Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck found Jacob Trouba trailing, and he beat Darcy Kuemper glove-side. Trouba has three goals in past six games.

Washington got one back later in the period. Both Adam Fox and Nico Mikkola got caught up in the offensive zone, leaving the defense scrambling to get back. Amid the chaos, T.J. Oshie set the table for Matt Irwin with a deft backhand pass, and the defender put puck in the net. It Irwin’s second point of the game. Matt Irwin came into tonight’s game with three points in 50 games this season. Okay.

Third Period

Washington refused to go down easy, and with eight minutes to go Nic Dowd tied the game. Mikkola took yet another minor penalty—guy can’t stay out of the box—and moments after the PK expired, Nic Dowd out muscled Trouba in the slot and pulled the Caps within one.

With just over two minutes remaining, the Capitals pulled their goalie, and in no time whatsoever, Barclay Goodrow won the defensive zone faceoff, and Jimmy Vesey tossed a backhander across the ice and into the vacated net.

. . .

Whew, they don’t make it easy, do they? The Rangers rolled over the Capitals for most of the game, they but took their foot off the gas in the final stanza and made things a little uncomfortable. That’s something they’ll have to figure out for the playoffs—they have been terrible while leading this year. On the positive side, it was to see Zibanejad break his scoreless drought, and the line of Kreider-Trocheck-Kane was the first combination that included Kane that wasn’t Swiss cheese defensively. The fourth line was rock solid again as well. And to top it all off, none of the Rangers forwards got more than 20 minutes of ice-time, and as I have previously argued, this is the exact type of game to balance the workload. Overall, there was more good than bad from the Rangers in this game.

Plus, the Penguins lost to the Canadiens tonight, dropping two essential points in an easy matchup. The Rangers will look to create even more of a gap between themselves and the Pens on Thursday night.