New York Rangers play terrific game but done in by 3 great minutes from Alex Ovechkin

Mar 19, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren (55) checks Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) while chasing the puck in front of Rangers center Colin Blackwell (43) in the second period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not quite sure how else to explain what an incredible road game the Rangers played in Washington. For basically 57 minutes the Blueshirts were the far better team. They outdid the Capitals for most of the night except for a 3:09 spurt in the third period when one of hockey’s greatest goal scorerS simply took over.

Rangers vs Capitals: Ovechkin gets crushed then hits back with two goals

The Rangers were cruising through two periods in Washington but could only muster one power play goal off the stick of Artemi Panarin. Up to that point the Blueshirts defense were keeping Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in check. This was emphasized in the second period when Ryan Lindgren rocked Ovechkin with a hit that not only broke his stick in half, it sent him to the bench in discomfort.

While the Rangers completely controlled the game, it took 3:09 for Ovechkin to score twice and give his team the win. The 2-1 final puts the Capitals in sole possession of first place in the East. It also gave Vitek Vanecek a 32 save performance as his big stops stole a win from the up and comers from New York.

This loss really stings. NY outshout Washington 33-18, but to make matters worse they dominated the third period by a 14-7 shot margin. A hard pill to swallow for sure.

Loss is a tough pill for Rangers and fans to swallow

rangers vs capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts mantra during this rebuild has been to “trust the process”, but losing games like this are not some statistical outlier this season. They’ve happened often for this group and for fans it truly tries the patience, but the reality is these losses are part of the process.

“Yeah, it’s tough to stomach because you feel like we played pretty well,” New York forward Chris Kreider said. “I thought we played a really good road game. They jump on two big opportunities there in the third. … We were able to limit chances from a very good team, so definitely a lot of good takeaways.”

Chris Kreider’s words are not consoling to the impatient or the impetuous. Last night’s loss left fans scratching their heads again. Especially those who thought all the Rangers problems were solved because David Quinn wasn’t behind the bench after crushing the Flyers 9-0.

Matter of fact, last night may have been a little different if Quinn was present. While many like to cite how Quinn’s line shuffling is a reason why this team has issues, I would’ve like to see Lafrenière moved to right wing over Colin Blackwell. Alexis only played 11:50 last night thanks to Kris Knoblauch not feeling comfortable to change a single thing in the game. That was the second lowest total of the season for the #1 pick since he played only 9 minutes on February 1.

Knoblauch’s stringent line deployment also impacted Kaapo Kakko, who was far more visible than Blackwell but only played 11:14 and cemented to the third line. As for Filip Chytil, just 13:09 himself. If Quinn was behind the bench he certainly would have made adjustments, which is what all coaches do in NHL games.

Pointing out ice time is not meant to lay blame at Knoblauch’s feet either. He’s done an incredible job as a fill in. Fans simply need to understand that what he’s doing is following a game plan laid out by the coaching staff. He’s keeping it simple and honoring the direction provided by David Quinn and his assistants. Anyone expecting Knoblauch to go rogue and just rip up a plan as a substitute coach simply do not understand what his role is while Quinn is out.

Artemi Panarin is heating up

There were many bright spots in this game. I’m sure fans don’t thinks so because all that matters is the answer to a simple question. “Did the Rangers win?”

Artemi Panarin is an offensive force and should give fans hope because he’s heating up. And even though making the playoffs remains a low probability he’s part of the process you need to trust. He’s one of the best players in the game, and should still be dominating when the likes of Lafrenière and Kakko start to add more scoring.

The Breadman scored on the PP last night giving him three goals in four games since his return from self-exile. He’s scored at least one point all four games he’s played and has 7 over that span. Panarin has not slowed down since he became a Ranger. Last season he was scoring at 1.37 points per game, this season he’s been just as good at 1.38.

Post Game Notes

  • The Blueshirts held the Capitals to 18 shots on goal in tonight’s game, which was tied for a single-game season-low (also on Mar. 13 at Boston). New York has held its opponent to 30 shots on goal or fewer in each of the last eight games and in 20 of 29 games this season.
  • The Rangers were 1-for-1 (2:00) on the penalty kill in tonight’s game and did not allow a shot on goal during the Capitals’ one power play opportunity. The Blueshirts have not allowed a power play goal against in 18 of the last 22 games (63-for-69; 91.3%), including 12 of the last 15 games (41-for-46; 89.1%) and 10 of the last 12 contests (26-for-29; 89.7%).
  • The Blueshirts were credited with 23 hits in tonight’s game. The Rangers have registered 20 or more hits in 24 of 29 games this far this season.
  • Ryan Strome notched a power play assist, led all skaters with five shots on goal, and led the Rangers with 11 faceoff wins (11-for-18; 61.1%) in 20:42 of ice time. Strome extended his point streak to four games (one goal, four assists over the span) and his assist streak to three games. 
  • K’Andre Miller logged 23:21 of ice time in tonight’s game. Miller has logged at least 20:00 of ice time in 21 different games this season, which is the most among NHL rookies. He has logged at least 19:58 of ice time in each of his last 20 games.
  • Brendan Smith skated in his 500th career NHL game in tonight’s contest.

Next Game: Tomorrow, Saturday, Mar. 20 at Washington (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG Network)

From the Editor: Pre and Post Game Notes are courtesy of the NYR PR staff. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work they do to compile this information. The data in it is invaluable to me and enhances my writing and storytelling. So a special thank you note to the folks behind the scenes that make not only this website better, but countless other writers and broadcasters that leverage the information better too.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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