|NYR||0||0||3||(0 - 0)||3|
|WSH||2||2||0||(0 - 0)||4|
• Grachev Assigned to Hartford
If the measure of a team is how well it plays when it faces adversity, then the New York Rangers ended their 2009 preseason on the highest possible note Sunday afternoon, despite losing their game by a goal.
Trailing 4-0, the Blueshirts utterly dominated the Washington Capitals in a third period that saw them outscore their high-flying hosts 3-0 and outshoot them by a remarkable 20-4 margin on the same Verizon Center ice where the Caps had eliminated the Rangers from last year's playoffs.
Unfortunately, the third-period eruption came a bit too late to make a diference in the final score, as the Caps escaped with a 4-3 win, but it did show that the 2009-10 Rangers are a team that will refuse to fold and is capable of generating a lot of offense in a hurry.
The loss ended the Blueshirts' three-game preseason winning streak, as they finished the seven-game exhibition schedule with a 3-3-1 record. Next up is the regular-season opener on Friday night at Pittsburgh, where they will face another Eastern Conference powerhouse in the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Sunday's inspired third-period comeback was that two of the Rangers' goal-scorers were youngsters. Artem Anisimov, 21, and Evgeny Grachev, 19, got the first two goals to draw the Blueshirts back into the game, and Donald Brashear scored with 3:58 left in the third to make it a one-goal margin of defeat.
Right to the end, the Rangers were pressing for the tie, as they showed the Caps that their 3-2 win over Washington on Thursday at Madison Square Garden was no aberration. Even at the Verizon Center, the Blueshirts were capable of putting Alexander Ovechkin and Co. on their heels.
Brashear's goal -- scored from the left circle at 16:02 -- was also a reminder that the 2009-10 Rangers will get offense from a number of sources, including the team enforcer and defenseman Marc Staal, who assisted on both the Brashear and Grachev goals.
The Brashear scoring play that put the Caps on the defensive at 4-3 developed as a power play expired, when Staal took the puck in deep behind goaltender Simeon Varlamov and sent a pass back to an open Brashear, whose quick shot was never seen by the goalie.
Had it not been for Varlamov, who was also the hero of last season's first-round playoff series between the teams, the Rangers might have won easily on Sunday. The young Russian goalie, still considered a rookie by NHL definition, made 28 saves on the day, many of them spectacular.
While Varlamov and the Caps were under siege in the third period, Rangers goalie Steve Valiquette, who replaced starter Henrik Lundqvist, saw very little action in the Blueshirts' end, needing only four saves in the thid period.
The final 20 minutes of the game were a textbook display of head coach John Tortorella's offense-first style, where an emphasis on puck possession in the opposition's zone took pressure away from the defensive end of the ice. The Blueshirts will enter the new season understanding just how they need to play -- and how quickly the goals can come as a result.
It was clear from the start of the third that the Rangers were going to own the final period of their preseason, despite what had happened in the first 40 minutes.
The period opened with good Rangers momentum, as Marian Gaborik fired a backhander just wide as he crashed the net just 31 seconds into the third. Then, at the 1:25 mark, Varlamov was forced to make a big glove save on Brian Boyle's wide-open wrister from the left circle.
The Rangers got their first power play of the final period when Chris Bourque went off for boarding Anisimov at the 5:21 mark. During that penalty, Varlamov's glove robbed Brandon Dubinsky at 6:15.
Not long after the big save on Dubinsky, Anisimov made Bourque pay for his penalty at 6:52 . Anisimov took a pass from Rozsival at the top of the right circle and blasted a shot past Varlamov for the power play goal to make it 4-1.
Shortly after the Anisimov goal, Gaborik generated some offense by nearly scoring when he picked up a loose puck in front -- a play that led to another Rangers power play, because Brian Pothier was called for cross-checking at 9:31.
The Rangers power play applied heavy pressure during the Pothier penalty, getting strong chances from Ryan Callahan and Gaborik late in the man-advantage.
Less than a minute after the power play ended, Grachev then made it a two-goal game at 12:26 when he led a 3-on-1 rush up ice through the neutral zone. Keeping the puck as he moved down the right side, Grachev teed up a wrister from the right circle that fooled Varlamov to make it 4-2.
That set the stage for Brashear and the intense drama of the game's final minutes, where the Rangers nearly found a way to win.
Up until the third, it was all Capitals, as Washington scored a pair of goals in both the first and second period.
Washington didn't waste much time in getting on the board, as Brooks Laich scored at 4:26 of the opening period.
Laich took advantage of a Rozsival giveaway in the slot after Rozsival had taken a pass back from Artem Anisimov. Rozsival lost his handle on the puck, and Laich snuck in to get past Rozsival, turn a spin move just outside the crease and beat Lundqvist with a pretty deke move to the stick side.
Despite giving up the relatively early goal, Lundqvist was very sharp in the opening period, making seven saves. Most of those stops came against Ovechkin, who fired three shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. At the 6:32 mark, Ovechkin stormed into the Rangers zone and fired a shot that Lundqvist stopped. Mike Knuble batted the rebound back on goal, but Lundqvist was there for that save, too.
Perhaps Lundqvist's biggest saves on Ovechkin came at 11:50 of the first period, when he denied a sharp wrister, and then at 15:59, when he got his right pad on Ovechkin's shot after the Capitals star created a partial breakaway for himself with 4:01 left in the period.
Washington scored its second goal of the game at 17:34 of the first, when Alexander Semin cashed in on some heavy Capitals pressure that had included Brendan Morrison hitting the left post. Washington kept coming after Morrison's near miss, and the puck found its way to Semin on the left side of the ice. The 25-year-old crossed over into the high slot and fired a long shot that beat Lundqvist through traffic. Morrison and Brian Pothier assisted on the goal.
At the other end of the ice, Varlamov made five first-period saves, including two stops against Ales Kotalik and Michael Del Zotto during a 5-on-3 Rangers penalty. The Blueshirts enjoyed the 95-second two-man advantage after Blake Sloan was whistled for tripping Callahan at 8:18, and Varlamov fired the puck over the glass to avoid an onrushing Gaborik at 8:43
In the second period, the Capitals made it 3-0 by staging some heavy pressure in the Rangers zone. After cycling the puck several times to the left of Lundqvist, the Capitals go the puck back to Brian Pothier at the top of the right circle for a wide-open blast. Pothier's drive deflected off the stick of Chris Bourque, a member of the AHL champion Hershey Bears last season. Bourque's goal came at 2:59 of the second.
More Caps opportunism led to another goal -- and a 4-0 lead -- just 91 seconds after Pothier scored. This time, Washington held the puck in the Rangers zone, working it back to the left point for a long, Mike Green shot that Lundqvist stopped. The rebound, however, came right out to Mike Knuble, who held it just long enough to get Lundqvist out of position. Knuble, a former Ranger who left Philadelphia to join the Caps this summer, slid it toward the far side of the net for a goal at 4:30.
|Brooks Laich Wrist shot - ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 WSH
|Alexander Semin Wrist shot - ASST: Tyler Sloan , Brooks Laich|
2 - 0 WSH
|Chris Bourque Slapshot - ASST: Brian Pothier , David Steckel|
4 - 0 WSH
|Mike Knuble Wrist shot - ASST: Mike Green , Jeff Schultz|
4 - 0 WSH
|PPG - Artem Anisimov Slapshot - ASST: Michal Rozsival , Wade Redden|
4 - 1 WSH
|Evgeny Grachev Wrist shot - ASST: Marc Staal|
4 - 2 WSH
|Donald Brashear Wrist shot - ASST: Marc Staal|
4 - 3 WSH