WASHINGTON - The Machine prevailed.
The Rangers threw a wrench into the Capitals' offense, which leads the NHL with 257 goals, a pace that would make them the highest-scoring team in the NHL since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins.
But the Rangers aren't anything similar to a well-oiled engine. Even with the return of their leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, the Rangers were shut out, 2-0, last night by Jose Theodore, who played well enough to deny goaltender Alex Auld a win in his Rangers debut.
Theodore finished with 30 saves and Auld had 26, but the Rangers, including Gaborik, couldn't seem to hit the net enough. When they did, there were few rebounds.
"It's not 100 percent," said the ailing Gaborik, who had missed three straight games and four of the last five with a cut to his thigh, and then a groin pull he suffered during the Olympics.
Having been idle for a week, he conceded that he felt rusty in his 20:08 of ice time, during which he had three shots. "When I get my legs back, it's going to be a little better each game," he said. "I had some chances tonight, but we have to work together to get a win. It felt OK today. It's going to get better tomorrow."
Asked if Gaborik, who leads the Rangers with four goals and six points in three games against Washington this season, didn't seem to be 100 percent, coach John Tortorella snapped: "I don't know what I think. Obviously, he has to play better."
The Rangers had 26 missed or blocked shots, were 0-for-2 on the power play and committed three penalties in the offensive zone. Two came within 15 seconds in the first period, a hook by Sean Avery and a holding the stick by Marc Staal. Eric Fehr scored at the tail end of the five-on-three, lifting a shot from the doorstep into the cage past a helpless Auld at 10:56.
A pass from the boards by defenseman Shaone Morrisonn to Dubinsky alone in front provided a golden opportunity for the tie. But Theodore, 11-0-2 in his last 13 games, stopped Dubinsky's backhander with his stick.
With the Rangers trailing in the second, Dubinsky failed to lift Eric Belanger's stick or put his body on him in front, and he swept the puck under Auld at 13:38. It was the first goal as a Cap for Belanger, acquired at the March 3 trading deadline.
"I thought we fell asleep on the second goal," Tortorella said. "We had two or three guys who aren't ready. That's the story of the game."
You couldn't blame Auld, 29, who had played 204 NHL games with a record of 83-81-28 and a 2.78 GAA, and was claimed off re-entry waivers from Dallas on Feb. 27. He had played nine games against the Caps and was 3-4-1 with one shutout. Auld's last win was Jan. 29 against the Avalanche and he was 9-6-3 with the Stars.
"He played very well; that's good news," Tortorella said. "We have a two-on-oh, we had a couple opportunities three-on-two. They didn't kill us with scoring chances. But we have to find a way when we get opportunities to at least get a shot on the net."