Rangers lose special teams battle to the Capitals; Kreider scores twice

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs capitals 1-17

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss.

Sound familiar? That’s been the Rangers (24-16-5) life lately as they fail to win consecutive games, something they have failed to do for two months now. The Capitals (34-8-3) picked up two points, giving them 71 on the year and a massive lead in the Metropolitan Division.

Antti Raanta made his first start in exactly a month, and he played well early on. But with the numerous power play chances for the Capitals and some turnovers and bad coverage, things fell apart. Raanta still has not since November 19th.

Kevin Klein did not take part of the warmups, related to the hand injury he suffered yesterday against the Flyers when he took a puck off of his hand. So Dylan McIlrath paired with Ryan McDonagh on the top line in his place.

The Rangers had the chances early on thanks to a slashing penalty on Justin Williams. Holtby started out strong as well, kicking out his right pad to turn aside Dan Boyle’s one timer from the slot.

Although they didn’t score there, it would be the Rangers that broke through first, and it was Chris Kreider scoring his second goal in as many games and extending his point streak to three games. Right off of a faceoff, Ryan McDonagh showcased some of his patience, waited for a shooting lane to open up, and sent a shot towards the night. Kreider expertly redirected it past Holtby for his eighth of the season.

Later in the period, Derick Brassard took a foolish penalty for holding the stick, sending the dangerous Capitals power play unit back on the ice. This time, they did score, and I’m sure you can guess who scored the goal. Alex Ovechkin turned a broken pass into a hard wrist shot that beat Antti Raanta through his legs to tie the game. Antti Raanta made a massive save late in the period, denying Mike Richards in just his second NHL game this season. After a weird puck bounce, Richards had virtually an open goal to shoot into. He couldn’t get all of the shot with Boyle pressuring him from behind, and Raanta was able to just get his stick on the shot and deflect the puck wide.

It was disappointing that they gave up a late goal, but the Rangers played a solid first period. They were up in shots 13-8, and didn’t allow the Caps to get many high quality chances at even strength.

Both goalies continued their strong play to start the second period. Braden Holtby started with two fantastic saves, kicking out the right pad on Dan Boyle’s slap shot, and then moving to his right to stop Lindberg’s rebound chance. Then Antti Raanta made an excellent save on Tom Wilson’s wide open wrist shot, as well as Backstrom’s rebound chance.

Dylan McIlrath took a slashing penalty on Justin William to prevent a good scoring chance, sending the Capitals back on the man advantage. Washington’s power play embarrassed the Rangers penalty kill once again when Backstrom sent an incredible pass to Johansson for an easy tap in. It was Backstrom’s league-leading 16th power play assist and Johansson’s 12th goal of the season.

The Rangers have a tendency to give up two goals in rapid succession, and they did it again here. The Caps took advantage of the Rangers making a line change, pressuring them and causing them to miss some defensive assignments. Taylor Chorney sent a wrist shot that was deflected past Raanta by Justin Williams, giving Washington three unanswered goals.

That really marked a turning point for the Caps, and they would control play for the next 10 minutes or so. They had another power play chance here, but the Rangers were able to kill that one off.

But with less than three minutes remaining, Kreider came through in the clutch again, scoring his second goal of the game. First off, a lot of credit goes to Rick Nash, muscling off his defender and fighting to the front of the net. He lost the puck, but Kreider wisely followed up the play and fired a shot past an unsuspecting Holtby, cutting the Capitals lead to just one.

Shortly after the goal, Braden Holtby skated over to the Capitals bench and started talking to the equipment trainer and manager. It appeared that he tweaked something, and Holtby headed to the locker room. Philipp Grubauer entered the game in relief and made two saves. The Caps had the 3-2 lead heading into the final period and the Rangers were up in shots, 24-18.

It was announced later that Holtby left due to dehydration. He did not return.

Neither team was really doing much of anything to start the third period, but the good sign was that the Rangers were preventing the Capitals from generating many shots or scoring chances. They kept themselves within striking distance.

But one turnover changed all of that. JT Miller feathered a pass and turned the puck over to Andre Burakovsky. He passed it to Kuznetsov and Marc Staal made the decision to cover him instead of Justin Williams. Kuznetsov sent it to the wide open Williams for a tap in and his second goal of the game. The Capitals had a 4-2 lead.

The Rangers had an opportunity to generate some offense on the power play, but failed again. They couldn’t muster a single shot on goal and the momentum went back to the Capitals.

Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard had an odd man rush, and Zuccarello elected to pass instead of shoot, even though there was no passing lane. Because why would anyone want to take a shot?

Vigneault pulled Antti Raanta with 2:49 left to go, and the Rangers couldn’t carry the puck into Washington’s zone. Two straight neutral zone turnovers turned into a shot from Justin Williams, which was going about 10 feet wide but went off of the stick of Derick Brassard and into the net to complete his hat trick.

The Rangers had a power play chance, and it looked like Dan Boyle scored his sixth goal of the season, but it was called off for offsides. The game would finish with the Capitals winning 5-2.

The Rangers’ special teams have been really bad lately. Not only are they struggling to score on the power play lately, but they’ve surrendered a power play goal to the opposition in seven of the last nine games. That was the big reason for the Rangers loss tonight, and it’s something the coaching staff really needs to address.

Also, it looked like the Rangers were playing effortlessly tonight. And not in a good way. There was no intensity to try and come back. They went very long stretches without many shots, and there was no intensity when they needed it.

Another problem was Vigneault’s usage of Keith Yandle at the end of the game. When your team is trailing, the best offensive defenseman on the Rangers was stapled to the bench. Why? How does that make any sense?

I tried to make excuses as long as possible, but this team just isn’t that good. Sure, they could be “better,” they have the talent to be better, but they aren’t and things haven’t changed in the last two months. When one area of their game improves, another falls apart. They can’t string wins together, they give up lots of goals in big moments, and they lose games they should win. There are 38 games left in the season, but things need to change very soon.

The lone bright spot was Chris Kreider, who scored two goals and is continuing to play better and better. He seems to be finally breaking out of his funk, and the team will seriously need his scoring going forward.

The Rangers host the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Posted on January 18, 2016, in Game Recaps, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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