Oct. 18 vs. New York Rangers at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
New York Rangers 2-2-0
Washington Capitals 4-2-2
The Caps conclude a three-game homestand on Friday night when they host the New York Rangers in a Metropolitan Division matchup. It's the rubber game of the homestand; the Caps have split the first two games.
Washington comes into Friday's game on the heels of a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. After falling behind 2-0 in the first, the Caps rallied for four unanswered goals - three of them in a span of just 78 seconds in the front half of the middle period - to earn their second come-from-behind win of the season. The Caps also trailed St. Louis by 2-0 in the first period of their season opener on Oct. 2 before coming back to win 3-2 in overtime.
"I wasn't concerned when we were down 2-0," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "I thought [the Leafs] converted on a couple of chances, but I had a good feeling about our team tonight. There was no panic, we stayed with our game, we built and built shift after shift, and it was a matter of time. I was confident in our group tonight. Despite what happened last game, I felt strong about it."
"What happened last game" refers to Monday's homestand opener against the Colorado Avalanche in which the Caps were down 4-0 before the midpoint of the first period. They showed much better over the final 40 minutes of that game, but the first was ugly; the Avs scored on each of their first three shots on net. Toronto scored a shorthanded goal on its first shot in Wednesday's game, marking the third time in eight games the Caps have yielded a goal against on the opposition's first shot on goal of the night. Washington has gone on to win two of those games.
Wednesday's win was Washington's first on home ice this season; the Caps dropped each of their first three (0-1-2) at Capital One Arena before turning back Toronto.
"I think it was a really good change for us," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "I think it was easy to feel a little déjà vu action happening, and we didn't want to be where we were and having the meetings that we had and everything that we've worked on. I think everyone responded really well, and maybe now we won't have to have those meetings tomorrow."
Ahead of Wednesday's game with Toronto, Reirden shuffled the flanks of all four forward lines, and reinserted Chandler Stephenson into the middle of the fourth line. The moves were to good effect; a Washington team that had been having difficulty finishing at 5-on-5 scored three times at full and even strength for the first time in eight games this season.
Entering the game against the Leafs, the Caps had managed only 10 goals at 5-on-5 in seven games. Not only did they net three on Wednesday, the goals came from three different lines. Washington augmented those goals with their first power-play goal on home ice, a John Carlson blast from the left dot on a two-man advantage.
Carlson's goal proved to be the game-winner as Ilya Samsonov won his third straight start with a 29-save night in the nets.
While Washington has already played eight games on the young season, the Rangers have played only four. The Blueshirts opened at home with a win over Winnipeg on Oct. 3, and they won their road opener in Ottawa two nights later. But since then, things have been mighty quiet for the Rangers. They played on the road in New Jersey on Thursday night to start a set of back-to-backs and three games in four nights, and prior to that they played just once - a home ice loss to the Oilers last Saturday - in a span of 11 nights.
New York has scored first in all four games this season, but it lugs a two-game losing streak with it to Washington. After taking an early 1-0 lead over the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday, the Rangers fell 5-2 in the front end of a set of Metro Division back-to-backs. Alexandar Georgiev was in goal for New York against the Devils, so Washington is likely to see Henrik Lundqvist on Friday. Lundqvist earned his 450th career win in the season opener against the Jets, and he is now four victories behind Curtis Joseph for fifth place on the league's all-time wins ledger.
Friday's game closes out a quick two-game trip for the Rangers, who will head right back home after the game. New York opens up a season high five-game homestand against Vancouver on Sunday.