Powerful Caps hold off Rangers in Washington
|In his first start as a Ranger, backup goaltender Alex Auld turned in a remarkably strong performance with 28 saves, including seven stops against Washington star Alex Ovechkin, who was held without a point.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
returned to the lineup, and Alex Auld made a strong debut in goal, but it was not enough to lift the Rangers to victory on Saturday night at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. Instead, the Rangers were blanked by Jose Theodore and the NHL-leading Capitals 2-0.
Gaborik, who had missed the first two games following the Olympic break with a lower-body injury, returned to the lineup and resumed his spot on the top line alongside Vinny Prospal
and Erik Christensen
. Gaborik did not seem hampered too much by the injury, logging 20:08 of ice-time and finishing with three shots on goal.
Auld, who was selected off re-entry waivers from Dallas by the Rangers a week ago, played his first game with his new team and turned in a sharp performance. Looking calm and poised, he made 26 saves including an impressive pair on high-scoring Caps defenseman Mike Green during a rapid-fire sequence midway through the opening period. He also helped keep Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin off the scoresheet, stoning him from point-blank range with four minutes remaining in the game.
“I felt good,” said Auld. “You just want to give your team a chance and make as many saves as you can, obviously. We did a great job against their top guys.”
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Theodore was just a little bit better than Auld on Saturday. Theodore earned his first shutout of the season and 29th of his NHL career in a 30-save outing.
“Auld played good, he played very well,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “That’s good news.”
Despite playing a very strong road game, and creating the better scoring chances, the Rangers found themselves trailing the Capitals 2-0 after two periods of play.
The difference in the game was Theodore, who was extremely sharp, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the opening period and another 10 in the middle stanza. Theodore’s best moment came 5:25 into the second when, after a Caps giveaway in front, he robbed a wide-open Brandon Dubinsky
and then followed with huge stops on Chris Drury
and Artem Anisimov
during a wild scramble in front.
The Rangers continued to create scoring chances off a very strong forecheck which had the Washington defensemen scrambling in their own end. Theodore, though, was there to thwart the Rangers time and again, including a well-positioned save on Gaborik’s rising snap shot off a Prospal drop pass at 10:23 of the second period.
While the Rangers carried much of the play, Washington proved to be very opportunistic against Auld. The Caps scored once in each of the first two periods, taking advantage of a 5-on-3 power play in the opening 20 minutes and scoring off a Rangers’ defensive lapse in the next 20.
was whistled for hooking at 8:58 of the first period, and during the ensuing penalty kill Marc Staal
was called for holding the stick at 9:13. Handed 1:45 worth of a two-man advantage, the Caps were nearly held off the scoreboard as Auld made two big saves. However, with two seconds left in the 5-on-3, Washington scored to take a 1-0 lead.
Caps winger Eric Fehr burst behind Drury to accept a Tomas Fleischmann pass and he finished by rifling a five-foot shot high into the net at 10:56 for his 17th goal of the season.
“It was a tough way to start like that, especially because we started well and were skating well” said Staal. “That kind of put the momentum back in their court.”
Washington upped their advantage to 2-0 at 13:38 of what had been a well played second period to that point by the Rangers. A breakdown in coverage by the visitors, however, allowed Eric Belanger to sneak in behind a back-checking Dubinsky and convert a Brooks Laich pass past a lunging Auld.
“I thought we fell asleep on the second goal,” said Tortorella. “(Alexander) Semin throws a quick cross-ice and we had two or three guys that just weren’t ready.”
Belanger, who was playing his second game with Washington since being acquired at the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday, netted his 14th goal of the season, and first with the Capitals. It was a hugely important goal because, with the way Theodore was playing in the Caps net, a two-goal deficit for the Rangers loomed very large.
The Rangers were awarded a power play early in the third period, a prime chance to get on the scoreboard and get back into the game, but Theodore made several brilliant saves to keep his shutout alive.
A pair of late penalties by the Rangers also short-circuited any hopes of a comeback, and now the club will have to regroup quickly with a tilt against the Buffalo Sabres on tap Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
|Three star selections