WASHINGTON---The beat-up Blueshirts are winning by playing defense-first hockey and getting some timely goals.
The formula worked to perfection against last night against the Washington Capitals, as the Rangers rallied with a flukey score to tie the game late in the third and three shootout goals, including the winner by Artem Anisimov, for a 2-1 victory.
Trailing 1-0, Marian Gaborik, who hadn't scored since his four-goal outburst against the Leafs, had a bouncing rebound of a shot by Brian Boyle go off his arm past rookie goalie Braden Holtby with 6:41 left in regulation and a review confirmed the call on the ice. It was his 16th goal of the season and second of the year against the Capitals, with assists to Boyle and Sean Avery.
“I felt it hit me and the guys were celebrating,” said Gaborik. “I guess it was one of the lucky ones. This was a typical team game, we outshot them big time until the 10-minute mark of the third; it was a grind and everybody contributed.”
The puck hit Gaborik and defenseman Karl Alzner’s stick or hand and popped past Holtby. “I wasn’t sure until the replay,” said coach John Tortorella. Sean and Gabby thought it was a goal.”
The shootout featured two fabulous moves by Wojtek Wolski and Mats Zuccarello---with his fourth shootout goal in four attempts---and a critical save by Martin Biron on Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin had six shots, but was kept off the scoresheet, mostly by the defense pairing of Marc Staal and rookie Michael Sauer, stepping in for the injured Dan Girardi. Staal played 29:09, sometimes shifts of more than 90 seconds. Sauer played 24:22 against Ovechkin and Niclas Backstrom, “and I don’t think he was afraid at all,” Tortorella said. “I thought we defended really well.”
In the third game of this road trip, in which the Rangers (29-19-3) were 2-1, they failed to score on six power plays, but did not sag defensively and held the Capitals to just 11 shots through 40 minutes, Washington’s lowest through two periods all season.
After a scoreless first, the Caps came out flying in the second period and 1:27 in, Matt Hendricks, driving to the net to the right of Biron, got his stick on Marcus Johannsen’s cross ice pass and directed the puck into the stickside corner for the lead. Hendricks breezed by Chad Kolarik for his third goal in six games.
Otherwise,Biron, now 8-4, was efficient and stopped six shots in overtime to lift the Rangers to 17-9-1 on the road. Holtby, meanwhile, had surrendered few rebounds, and when that happened he held his ground.
As might be expected, Ovechkin was the best player on the ice in a physical first period. He had two of the Capitals five shots, missed the net on two others and had one attempt blocked. Biron’s best save came when he slid to his left, stacked his pads, and turned away Jay Beagle’s close-in try.
The Rangers face the Panthers, losers of four straight, tonight at the Garden in their final game before the All-Star break. It concludes a league-high 14 back-to-back sets. The Rangers are 10-3 in the second game of those series, and have four more back-to-backs this season.