The NHL’s version of John Dillinger returned with guns blazing last night.
But it was the rest of the Caps’ gang that made sure the Rangers left Madison Square Garden with holes—in their game.
The undermanned Rangers were outclassed once again, this time by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, 4-2, Tuesday night. The Rangers who have lost five of eight and have lost 9 of 13 overall, have home games Saturday against Florida and Monday versus Columbus before going on a three game in four night road trip.
What they will remember is that they were beaten by Washington’s grinders, while not getting scoring from their role players.
“Our biggest weakness is that we aren’t getting any secondary scoring. We just aren’t creating enough with our secondary scoring” said John Tortorella. The Caps got goals from Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley and Brian Pothier. Bradley’s semi-breakaway in which he held off Matt Gilroy was the game-winner. Pothier sealed the game with an empty-netter with 17 seconds left. “Obviously, the scoring hasn’t been consistent. The forechecking and the secondary scoring has been a problem. We can’t get one or two goals and expect to win hockey games.”
Despite missing six games (Washington won four of the six games. Their only losses were at the hands of the Devils; both games were at The Prudential Center), Ovechkin lead the league in shots on goal with 86, was tied with LA’s Anze Kopitar and San Jose’s Dany Heatley for the league lead in goals with 14 and was tied for fourth in the league with 23 points.
After the Caps’ early skate, Bruce Boudreau said, that, “Unless something negative happens this afternoon and I don’t get the OK from (head trainer Greg Smith), then I think he will be playing.”
That was not what the struggling Rangers needed to hear. Ovechkin has tormented the Rangers throughout his four year career. He had 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 17 regular season games against the Rangers prior to last night.
Boudreau intimated that Ovechkin enjoys being the guy that is alternately disdained and feared by opposing fanbases. Outside of Pittsburgh, there may be no city where he is more loathed than in New York, where he is booed every time he touches the puck.
The Rangers fans hatred of Ovechkin was birthed during last year’s first round series, in which the reigning Hart Trophy winner scored three goals and assisted in four others in eliminating the seventh-seeded Rangers in seven games.
Seven months did little to dissipate the abhorrence, which grew when Ovechkin tied the game at one with a power play bullet that knocked Henrik Lundqvist’s water bottle from its perch on top of the cage.
Said Ovechkin of his first goal since a 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders on October 30, “It's always nice when you get hurt and you come back and you score in the first period on your first shot. You feel pretty good about yourself. After that I feel pretty cool. I was not afraid to take some hits and go battle.”
“I didn’t see it,” said Lundqvist, who was screened on the play. Lundqvist stopped 22 of 25 shots on the night. “He's good finding the holes. It was a good shot.
“You saw a couple times during the game what kind of player he is. He's really physical and played well, I think. I still think when (he's on top of his game he'll) have more puck. But he still hurt us with the one power play go, so I can't say too much.”
The Ranger who did talking on and off the ice was Marian Gaborik. Gaborik scored both Rangers goals and, afterwards, expressed his beliefs on what must happen in order for the team’s fortunes to improve.
“We battled hard. We just have to get sharp,” said Gaborik. “It’s got to turn around eventually. We have to capitalize and score on those hard working and grinding plays like we did. Our five-on-five play is fine. We just have to (cut down) on taking penalties and go from there.”
Gaborik scored the game’s first goal 1:16 into the first by shoveling a rebound of a deflection under Semyon Varlamov. His power play marker at 11:37 of the third tied the game at two. Varlamov finished with 18 saves.
Former Ranger Brendan Shanahan announced his retirement yesterday.
“I would like to thank my family and all of the friends who have helped me achieve and maintain my childhood dream of playing in the National Hockey League. I am enormously grateful to all of my coaches and teammates I've had the privilege of learning from and playing along side of, throughout my career. While I always dreamed of playing in the NHL, I can't honestly say that I would have ever imagined that I'd be this fortunate and blessed. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has helped me fulfill this dream,” Shanahan said in a statement released by the league.
In 21 years, Shanahan recorded 656 goals, 698 assists, 1,354 points, and 2,489 penalty minutes in 1,524 games. He won three Cups with the Red Wings. Shanahan also skated for the Devils, Blues and Whalers.
Goaltender and Rangers’ PA rep Steve Valiquette was noticeably stunned when told of the news. “I didn’t think he was going to retire. I don’t know how to answer that. I have to be honest. I thought he was going to come back and play.” Added Sean Avery, while walking into the Rangers’ dressing room, “He’s the best.”
Shanahan, who had been active participant within the NHLPA and was a flashpoint in working with the league to make changes to the game during his playing career, could be considered for the PA’s vacant Executive Director position.
“Shanny is a leader, through and through. His leadership will be valuable in any capacity that he ends up working after hockey. He’s either going to be a general manager some day or, like I said, he could work for the NHLPA,” said Valiquette. “He can do many things to influence hockey. He’ll do something great in hockey, you’ll see.”
Aaron Voros bloodied Bradley in a first period light-heavyweight fight.
Legendary Rangers goaltender and Hall-of-Famer Eddie Giacomin received a standing ovation when introduced to the crowd during a second period commercial break.
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