- Derek Stepan (in white) tries to get past Scott Hannan in Friday night's 6-0 New York win. (Photo: Associated Press)
The Capitals showed plenty of rust in their first game since Monday night's win at Pittsburgh as they were made to look distinctly second-best by the New York Rangers. Two goals in each of the first two periods were more than enough for the Broadway Blueshirts as they defeated the Capitals 6-0 at the Verizon Center Friday night in front of an often-restless and occasionally angry sellout crowd.
In Washington's first home game since a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles February 12, the tone was set for the night early in the first period when defenseman Mike Green, also playing his first game since February 12, was forced to leave the ice after taking a blow to the head from Derek Stepan's shoulder. Seconds later, with Green still groggy, Stepan passed to Steve Eminger, who slapped a deflected shot from the high slot past Michal Neuvirth to make it 1-0 to New York 5:56 into the first. That would turn out to be the only goal the Rangers needed, with Henrik Lundqvist in fine form and stopping all 35 Washington shots he faced.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the NHL will review Stepan's hit on Green to determine if the Rangers center can be suspended under the NHL's new rule outlawing lateral or blindside hits to the head. Stepan's hit did seem to fall under that definition.
The Rangers doubled their lead 14:47 into the first, and this one was comparatively simple. After Brian Boyle won the puck from Karl Alzner behind the Washington net, the puck found its way to Michael Sauer along the half-boards. Sauer flipped a pass to Erik Christensen, who had made his way to the edge of Neuvirth's crease with Alzner still out of position behind the net. Christensen was left with a simple tap-in, which he duly converted.
Christensen added a second goal on the power play at 4:19 of the second period. This goal was made by a beautiful sequence of passes, with Vinny Prospal first finding Ryan Callahan with a pass from the half-boards to below the face-off circle to Neuvirth's right. Callahan then dropped a beautiful blind pass to Christensen in the other face-off circle, and the latter wristed the puck into the open net as Neuvirth couldn't move from right to left quick.
That goal ended the competitive portion of the game, but Stepan, who'd already done plenty of damage on the night, added one more twist of the knife with 2:08 left in the 2nd. With Matt Bradley serving an interference penalty, a shot from the point by Michael Del Zotto bounced straight back at Neuvirth from the end boards. Acting quickly, Stepan pounced and flipped a backhand shot from a tight angle over Neuvirth's shoulder and into the net to make it 4-0.
It was Prospal who made the scoreline look even more flattering to New York at the 6:16 mark of the third period. After taking a feed from Christensen behind the net, Prospal's first shot from a tight angle to Neuvirth's left was deflected by Brooks Laich. But Prospal got a second chance, and made no mistake with it, finishing high past the Czech netminder to provoke wild celebrations among the many Rangers fans at Verizon Center.
Brian Boyle added a sixth Ranger goal with 33.7 seconds left to finish the job completely.