Prospal's four points not enough to stop Caps' streak
|Rangers forward Olli Jokinen, left, scored two points, and alternate captain Vinny Prospal tied a career-high with four, but it wasn't enough against Alex Ovechkin and his high-flying Caps teammates.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers traded goals with the highest-scoring team in the National Hockey League on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, but fell one short in dropping a wild 6-5 decision to the Washington Capitals.
The home team received a four-point performance from Vinny Prospal
, who scored two goals and added two assists. Olli Jokinen recorded two points, on a goal and an assist, in his home-ice debut for the Rangers.
“A great team like that with so much firepower, they’re going to capitalize on our mistakes and so many power plays we gave them,” said Prospal. “It’s such a shame that even though they have so many great offensive players that we still allowed them to score six goals.”
The Blueshirts also scored four power-play goals in the contest, although they allowed the Caps to score three of their own.
“We plug one hole and a couple of others spring up, mainly our discipline,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of his team, which was shorthanded nine times on Thursday. “We can’t be sitting in the box as much as we did tonight.”
The Capitals, now winners of a franchise-record 12 games in a row, were led by Nicklas Backstrom, who notched five points with a goal and four assists. Alex Ovechkin contributed two goals and one assist.
Washington erased a two-goal Rangers lead with three consecutive scores that bridged the second and third periods. Likely the most crucial of these goals came with 8.5 seconds remaining in the middle stanza.
At that point, the Rangers were enjoying a 5-3 lead and had scored three consecutive goals themselves, all on the power play. But Ovechkin’s second goal of the night -- and 38th of the season, in the final seconds of the period -- brought his team right back into the game.
“It’s a totally different outcome after 40 minutes,” said Prospal. “Instead of going into the locker room with a two-goal lead, it’s just one. It’s always a tough pill to swallow.”
Only 59 seconds into the third period, the Caps tied the game on former Rangers defenseman Tom Poti’s power-play goal that snuck through a screened Henrik Lundqvist
. At 5:34 Backstrom netted a power-play goal of his own, his 24th of the season, and the Capitals were back in front 6-5.
“Obviously, it is tough when (we) put up that many goals and we don’t come away with the win,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan
, who scored a goal and added an assist.
A wildly entertaining back-and-forth contest saw the Rangers grab a pair of first-period leads, fall behind in the second, reclaim their lead midway through the middle period, and then surrender Ovechkin’s goal that tightened the contest just before the second intermission arrived.
At the heart of it all was the revived Rangers power play. The Rangers had not scored a power-play goal in seven straight games, but even before two periods were complete they had netted a season-high four goals on the power play.
“Four power-plays goals and we still lose a hockey game,” said Tortorella. “That’s the way it’s been going here.”
Callahan opened the scoring at 8:58 of the first period, and Jokinen earned his first point as a Ranger on the play. With Tomas Fleischmann in the penalty box, Jokinen settled a Prospal pass and wristed a shot towards the net. Callahan, stationed in front, deflected the puck off of Caps goalie Jose Theodore and over the goal line for his 14th goal of the season, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
In the midst of a fairly dominating first period, the Rangers pumped high-quality shots at Theodore, but could not add to their advantage. As a result, Washington capitalized when Boyd Gordon flipped a shot through a maze of players into the net, tying the contest at 1-1 16:40 into the opening stanza.
Just 10 seconds later Prospal scored his first goal of the night, and the Rangers were back in front. Prospal snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Theodore muting the Capitals’ celebration.
Washington came out strong in the second period and took its first lead of the night by scoring twice in the opening 7:16. Mike Knuble’s 20th goal tied the game at 4:31 and Ovechkin netted his first of the game less than three minutes later to put the Rangers in a 3-2 hole.
The Caps became their own worst enemy, though, over the next several minutes. A Washington parade to the penalty box gave the Rangers the opportunity they needed, and the home team took full advantage.
Jokinen scored his first goal as a Ranger at 12:19, just 24 seconds after Knuble was penalized for hooking. Prospal’s shot from the high slot was blocked, but caromed to Jokinen who was cruising in from the left point. Jokinen one-timed a shot past an out-of-position Theodore and the game was tied 3-3.
“You saw him on the point there, he got shots through,” Callahan said of Jokinen. “He is a good player. He has size, he can skate, he can shoot. He does it all.”
Thirty seconds later Washington’s Jason Chimera was penalized for flipping the puck over the glass, and three ticks after that Backstrom tripped Prospal on the ensuing faceoff to give the Rangers 1:57 worth of a 5-on-3 power play.
It turned out that they only needed seven seconds of that 5-on-3 to score and regain the lead. Callahan whipped a perfect cross-crease pass to Prospal, and the veteran forward did not miss on the slam-dunk opportunity. Prospal’s second goal of the night, and 11th of the season, put the Rangers back in front 4-3 at 12:59 of the second period.
“There’s been a lot of talk about not scoring enough on the power play, and tonight we were so good on the power play, but we still didn’t win the game,” said Lundqvist. “Right now we are struggling to find our way.”
Alexander Semin was sent to the penalty box for tripping with 2:45 to play in the middle stanza setting the stage for another power play goal for the Rangers. This time it was Brandon Dubinsky
shoveling a backhand rebound shot past the sprawling Theodore for his 12th goal at 18:48, giving the Rangers a seemingly huge two-goal lead.
But Ovechkin’s deflating goal followed with 8.5 seconds left in the period, and the Caps scored two power play goals in the third to move back in front.
“It’s not fun as a goalie to give up six goals,” said Lundqvist. “This was a tough game.”
The Rangers will try and get back on the winning track Saturday night at MSG when they play host to the Devils. They will conclude their three-game homestand next Wednesday when they face the Nashville Predators.
|Three star selections