Rangers 7, Capitals 0
Brandon Dubinsky had just completed trading punches with Alexander Ovechkin and there was an appreciative roar in the old house on 33rd Street.
The building continued to howl and, if you closed your eyes and listened intently, for a moment you were transported back to the 1990s and the Rangers time as a legitimate contender.
Or maybe, as Dubinsky believes, he and his teammates are actually at that level
“We feel good about ourselves but we want to continue to work hard. We want to be the team that other people talk about. We feel like we are an elite team in this conference,” Dubinsky said after the Rangers demolished the Capitals, 7-0, at the Garden last night. The last time the Rangers beat Washington by seven goals was March 1974.
The Rangers improved to 18-13-1 this season and are 8-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games after imposing their will on the Capitals. Washington has lost its last six games.
“We have played well in back-to-backs all year long. It was a huge win against a good hockey team,” Dubinsky said after his two point (goal and an assist), plus-4 effort. “Right from the get-go we were out working them. When you outwork teams and work hard, good things happen and you get rewarded. That is what happened and it worked for us.”
Yes, it did. That the Rangers were able to perforate Varlamov for the seven markers— on 20 shots — had everything to do with a strong forechecking and cycling game against a team that was not especially interested in playing physical hockey and had lost five in a row coming into the match. Ryan Callahan scored twice. Brandon Prust, Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik, Marc Staal and Dubinsky scored one each. Bruce Boudreau told reporters that he was unable to replace Varlamov with Michal Neuvirth because Neuvirth was ill.
“We were playing really good off the start. We were containing them and were getting in on the forecheck which we wanted to do. It just rolled from there,” Callahan said. He and linemates Dubinsky and Anisimov recorded four goals, two assists, six points and were a collective plus-11 against Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin.
Ovechkin was rendered invisible by the trio, Staal and Dan Girardi. The NHL’s fifth-leading point producer took six shots on net, threw seven hits and was minus-1 in 16 minutes before leaving the game in the third period after being struck on the knee with a puck.
“We limited his shots. We limited his chances,” Girardi said. It was Ovechkin’s hip-check on Girardi that caused Dubinsky and the Russian superstar to fight at center ice. “I thought we did a good job containing him. Dubi did a job containing him.”
“When you play against a top line, it is tough to contain them. I thought we limited their chances and when they had chances, Hanky (Lundqvist) was there to stop them,” added Callahan.
Lundqvist rebounded from Saturday night’s disappointing 3-1 loss in Columbus by stopping all 31 Washington shots. He benefitted from 17 blocked shots from his teammates, led by Brian Boyle’s seven.
“It really bothered me last night. I was really frustrated and disappointed. I was happy they put me in today so I could get it out of my system,” Lundqvist said. “They have been great all year, especially lately. They have been playing great defensively. It was a nice surprise to see how hard they worked the last ten minutes. The whole game, really.”
Three things we saw:
1 MVP silenced — Rangers coach John Tortorella matched defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal up against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals top line. “They have their hands full,” Tortorella said before the game. If they did, it didn’t show. The duo limited Ovechkin to four shots while totaling five points. Staal had a goal and two assists while Girardi chipped in with two helpers.
2 King me — Tortorella said matter-of-factly he thought Henrik Lundqvist’s game “wasn’t at the level that it needs to be.” Well, Lundqvist raised his level against one of the most potent offenses in the NHL. He stopped all 22 shots and turned what could have been a high-scoring, back-and-forth game into a one-sided affair.
3 Total team win — The second line of Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky led the way with a collective five-point and plus-9 effort. Callahan was a beast on the forecheck and tallied two goals, Anisimov scored an Ovechkin-like goal 59 seconds into the second period — the first of four Rangers goals in a 10-minute span — and Dubinsky added a goal, an assist and a right cross to the dome of Ovechkin after the Caps’ superstar hip-checked Girardi in the second period.