Rangers 2, Caps 1 (shootout)

Seems like we’ve seen this movie before. The Caps held a 1-0 lead for most of the second and third periods, gave up a goal relatively late in regulation and then couldn’t recover in extra time.

Washington lost in the shootout to the New York Rangers, 2-1. The Caps are now 1-9 in games that go beyond regulation since starting the season 5-0 in those contests. A fluke goal did them in on Monday night as rookie Braden Holtby had another fine game. But this is getting repetitive. Read the details in our game story here.

The Caps are leaving points on the board and the race for the Southeast Division title isn’t getting any easier. Their record is now 27-14-9 through 50 games with 63 points. That’s still fifth in the Eastern Conference and two points behind first place Tampa Bay (30-15-5, 65 points) with one game left before the All-Star break. That one is Wednesday night in Atlanta.

“We went for the goal. We didn’t get it. We haven’t lost these overtime games because of lack of offense. It’s because of poor defense,” said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau. “We talked about how we have to play in the overtime…and I thought we did a really good job of it. There’s no secret. When there’s a turnover in overtime you go. The defense jump into the play. It’s not rocket science.”

There were some positives, to be sure. Alex Ovechkin is looking more and more like himself. He followed up his hat trick against Toronto with six shots on goal and looked dangerous all night, driving hard at opposing defenders, but mixing up his moves enough that the Rangers defensemen were on their heels.

“Old Ovi? I’m still young,” Ovechkin joked when asked about his apparently renewed energy. That’s about as far as he wanted to go with that meme, though. “No, I just have opportunity to make some moves, make some shots…Again it’s coming. But today I don’t play great.”

Holtby has played so well in his three starts – 87 of 90 saves – that it feels like nitpicking to critique his performance in the shootout. He admitted to some struggles in that area early in the AHL season before playing a lot better in the last month or so. But he was far too aggressive on the first two attempts by Wojtek Wolski and Mats Zuccarello as the Caps quickly fell behind.

“In the NHL shootouts are a lot harder,” Holtby said. “Something you don’t get to practice because when they clean the ice it’s a lot more slippery than when you usually practice shootouts at the end of practice and [the ice] is all chewed up.”

Even with his strong save totals Holtby didn’t feel like he played all that well. There were a decent amount of long rebounds that the Rangers just failed to take advantage of. So he wasn’t even that frustrated about their “lucky” goal. Holtby felt like he’s gotten away with numerous mistakes before that one found its way in.

Boudreau lamented his team passing up prime scoring chances early in the game, trying instead for the perfect pass, the slam-dunk scoring chance. He counted four or five times when a shot fake wasn’t followed up with a quick shot on goal. That’s a constant theme during practices. He’ll have to drive it home again.

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