The Rangers systematically annihilated the Washington Capitals 7-0, Sunday night, turning in their single most dominant performance of the season. New York pounced on the struggling visitors early, pinning them deep and adding to their frustrations with every shift.
It was a complete victory for the Blueshirts, who scored at even strength, on the power play, and shorthanded as well. Here's how it all went down:
Black and Blueshirt
Dan Girardi turned in a first-rate effort Sunday and was rewarded with a few bruises. The D-man took two shots to his legs during the Caps' first power play, sticking his boot out to deflect a slap shot from John Carlson and a heavy wrister from Alex Ovechkin. It looked like both shots stung him pretty good, but he was back out on the ice 10 seconds later. In the second period he took a huge hip-check from Ovechkin and another big hit with 6:30 remaining in the period. Girardi had his revenge though, holding the Caps' top line scoreless all night. I'm pretty sure Girardi is going to have reservations for the ice bath though.
Very Special Teams
Leading 2-0, the Rangers had an opportunity to put a boot on the Caps' neck with a power play, and that's exactly what they did. Marian Gaborik deflected a wrist shot from Marc Staal past Semyon Varlamov to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
Michal Rozsival set the table by sliding the puck back to Staal after a Caps PKer closed on him at the point.
And Staal wasn't done yet. A shorthanded goal in the second period really illustrated how he's grown as a player. He read a 2-on-1 opportunity about five seconds before it actually materialized and then streaked down the ice for an easy goal. As a side note, the Rangers now lead the league with seven shorthanded goals.
And the Rangers never eased up at all, blocking shots all night long -- including five, by my count, on a late-second-period PP.
No Flow Zone
There was zero flow in this game, which is exactly the way the Rangers wanted it. There aren't a whole lot of teams that can outskate the Capitals, but there aren't a whole lot of teams that can out-grit the Rangers. In a slow-paced, grinding game like this one, the advantage falls squarely to the boys in blue. Factor in that the Caps' two best defensemen were out of the lineup (Jeff Schultz, Mike Green) and the Blueshirt forecheckers were really able to go to town.
Through the first eight minutes of what would be a four-goal second period for the Rangers, I don't know if the Caps ever crossed the blue line into the Rangers' zone.
Even when Washington started to find its game at the start of the third period, the Rangers responded by scoring their sixth goal of the game. It was one of two third-period shots for the Blueshirts by my unofficial count. The Rangers scored on both of them.
Washington's Matt Hendricks started the fisticuffs in the second period when he challenged Mike Sauer shortly after the Caps went down 4-0, but the main event came at the period's midway point when Brandon Dubinsky dropped the gloves with Ovechkin. Or should I say, Ovechkin dropped 'em on Dubinsky.
Ovechkin laid a huge hip-check on Girardi, and when Dubi skated over to stand up for his teammate, the Caps' captain threw down. The fight was short and sweet, with Dubi landing a few uppercuts, it seemed, before they toppled to the ice. Hendricks returned for seconds late in the third period, this time getting smacked pretty good by Sean Avery right after both players skated out of the penalty box.
Washington never really found its offense, but it still had several decent scoring chances. Henrik Lundqvist fought off some funky chances in the first few minutes, and made a tremendous scrambling side-to-side save with his right leg-pad on a Mathieu Perreault wrister with about 3:30 to play in the first. At the end of the second, Lundqvist made three saves in rapid succession, and midway through the third he robbed Perreault again with the glove. The Swedish stopper was scalpel-sharp Sunday night.
Considering I feel about as good as the Caps looked tonight, I wasn't able to make it to the Garden. So we'll have to get to some notes and quotes in the morning. In the meantime, savor this one, Rangers fans.