The New York Rangers secured another win after grinding it out into a shootout versus the Washington Capitals on Monday, winning 2-1. The win versus Washington came in similar style when the Rangers faced the Atlanta Thrashers, winning 3-2 in a shootout as well. A night of defensive hockey was on display as the Capitals were the first to score just one minute and twenty-seven seconds into the second period. The tip-in goal came from Matt Hendricks after a pass from the far wing by Marcus Johansson and Scott Hannan. There wasn’t much Rangers goaltender Martin Biron could do to stop the rapid puck movement by the Capitals.
Down eight regular players due to injuries, the Rangers relied on the talent of Connecticut Whale’s Evgeny Grachev, Michael Del Zotto, Kris Newbury, Chad Kolarik, Michael Sauer, and Ryan McDonagh.
What they were able to accomplish with a decimated lineup was nothing short of spectacular. It may not have had a lot of offensive action, but the solid defensive hockey played by both teams was something to watch. Marc Staal was outstanding for the Rangers defensive efforts, effectively shutting down the not-so-hot (so far this season) Alexander Ovechkin on nearly every shift.
“Staal was on the ice sometimes for a minute-and-a-half or two minutes playing against (Ovechkin), but he got help from all six defensemen, and our forwards did a great job coming back to defend, too,” said Biron.
Biron was repeatedly tested by the Capitals as well, playing a near perfect game. Late in the third period, Biron faced two deflected shots, one from Nicklas Backstrom. Biron would go on to make another five saves in the overtime period, robbing Ovechkin of a slap shot. The frustration on Ovechkin’s face was clearly evident as he has not been the offensive contributor he has the reputation of this season for the Capitals.
“The big thing is we stuck to the game plan,” said Biron. “We played well defensively all night and kept the pressure on them. We handled their top line and we took away their defensemen. It was a great effort.”
The Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby was also outstanding, and who many would argue was robbed of his first NHL shutout after a fluke goal by Marian Gaborik. Sean Avery rushed into the slot, but then passed to Brian Boyle who was near the blue line and wristed the puck to the net. The puck bounced off of Gaborik’s arm close to his glove and he was not even looking toward the net as it deflected past Holtby. After the referees reviewed the play, they ruled it was a legal goal and the Rangers finally managed to tie the game.
With the overtime period expiring, it was off to a shootout that was very tense. Wojtek Wolski was the first for the Rangers to score versus Holtby in the shoot out, going wide, then suddenly deking right for an easy goal. Mats Zuccarello scored next for the Rangers, now impressively 4-4 in shoot outs (rookie’s luck?). Artem Anisimov concluded the shoot out in sudden death with a beautiful forehand-to-backhand deke-goal.
“We stayed with it, and we’ve been good at that all year,” said Gaborik. “It’s been great we’ve been all different ways, but the last two games we won the same kind of way. We grinded, were good defensively, had great goaltending, and had a huge character win.”
The Rangers play their final game before the All-Star break Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden when they face the Florida Panthers.