Capitals finally solve Rangers’ Lundqvist
NEW YORK – New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had shut out the Washington Capitals three times in a row. But two quick second-period goals allowed Washington to snap that streak Sunday night.
Benoit Pouliot scored for New York; Lundqvist stopped 32 of 36 shots.
After a tight-checking first period that saw few quality chances, it was the two quick goals that gave Washington (16-12-2) control of the game. They opened the scoring 2:28 into the second following an aggressive forecheck from the line ofMartin Erat, Chimera and Joel Ward. Erat’s shot from in close was stopped, but the rebound rested in the crease before Chimera pounced for his sixth of the season.
“It was just a scramble,” Chimera said. “Steve [Oleksy] made a good play and Ward tipped it over to Marty. He had a whack at it and it just kind of laid there and I just shoveled it in.”
The goal seemed to give Washington a huge boost, especially considering it ended Lundqvist’s shutout streak against the Capitals at 202:28, which dated back to New York’s series win against the Capitals in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. After going more than 10 straight periods without scoring on the Rangers goaltender, the Capitals wouldn’t wait long to get another.
Oleksy doubled Washington’s lead 25 seconds later with his first goal of the season on a wrist shot from the point that beat Lundqvist to his glove side.
“I was just trying to get it to the net. It ended up finding a way. [Aaron] Volpatti did a great job screening him in front,” said Oleksy, who sensed that the quick goals took the Rangers off their game. “I think you could feel it on the bench. We felt them deflate a little bit.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault agreed.
“You saw it. There was no push,” Vigneault said. “With the personnel we have right now, we need to play a smart, high-percentage, good puck-movement game. If we do that, we can be very effective.”
The goals from Chimera and Oleksy may have given Washington a boost, but the talk in the Capitals’ locker room was the play Grabovski made late in the second to effectively put the game out of reach.
Grabovski earned a penalty shot after being hooked by Ryan McDonagh on a breakaway with 1:59 remaining in the second. Grabovski drifted slightly to the right circle, then back between the hashmarks and fired a perfect slap shot into the top corner glove side to give Washington a 3-0 lead on his ninth goal of the season with 1:34 left in the second.
The play earned high praise from the NHL’s top goal-scorer.
“That’s what you have to do against [Lundqvist]. It’s hard to beat him. He reads the game well,” said Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the League with 22 goals. “It’s all about his skill.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates, who collected 1,420 career points as an NHL player, was impressed.
“What do you want me to say? It takes a lot of guts to pull that off. And he did. Good for him,” Oates said. “Obviously Grabo’s penalty shot made a big difference.”
Grabo’s goal got plenty of attention, but it was the combination of Ward and Chimera that gave New York (15-15-1) trouble throughout the night. With Dmitry Orlov off for cross-checking midway through the second, Ward stole a pass at his blue line and carried the puck into the New York zone before feeding a streaking Chimera, whose deflection was stopped by Lundqvist with 8:17 left in the second. Ward found the rebound, but could not beat the Rangers goaltender.
It wasn’t the first big save on Ward by Lundqvist, who had to be sharp with 6:24 left in the first when the Capitals wing raced to the net and went to the backhand. Rick Nash responded with a scoring chance of his own on the rush nine seconds later, but the Capitals’ third line had a step on the Rangers much of the night, with the speedy Chimera leading the way.
“He’s such a great skater. It comes effortlessly for him. I think when everybody is a little tired, maybe it looks a little faster,” Oates said. “That line has been playing great all year long for us.”
With his team suddenly trailing 2-0, Ryan Callahan took it upon himself to try to answer back. New York’s captain raced into the Washington zone 3:40 into the second and wired a quick wrist shot, but Grubauer made his most acrobatic stop of the night when he stretched out his right leg to make the save before stoning Michael Del Zotto on the rebound.
“We had a couple of shots and opportunities. I thought we needed more traffic at times,” Callahan said. “In the first we had a couple of opportunities, but after that it died down pretty quickly. For a guy that’s making his second career start, we didn’t throw enough at him.”
The Rangers were kept at bay in the third, failing to register a shot until 7:58. But Pouliot finally solved the Capitals goaltender after being a healthy scratch Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. Sixty-four seconds after Schmidt beat Lundqvist with 2:57 left in regulation on a shot from the point, Pouliot deflected Del Zotto’s shot into the net for his third of the season with 1:53 left in regulation. Despite the game mostly being decided by then, the Capitals weren’t pleased about New York spoiling Grubauer’s shutout.
“He was awesome. He looked really calm back there. He made a lot of saves at key times in the game,” Chimera said. “We felt really bad that one went in at the end. Guys were talking on the bench. We didn’t want to get scored on. Guys really felt bad about that one.”
Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer
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