There were heroes aplenty in the Caps' final home game of October on Friday night, in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers. T.J. Oshie (two goals) and John Carlson (three assists) continued to display their hot hands offensively, while Braden Holtby (26 saves) bounced back strong from a couple of rough outings to earn his first victory since opening night.
Playing for the first time in seven months, Michal Kempny scored a goal in his first period back in action. Radko Gudas took New York's Brendan Lemieux to task for a dubious hit on Kempny earlier in the game. All five of those guys and a few others could have earned the Washington Nats batting helmet given after victories postgame in the Caps' room, but that honor went instead to winger Garnet Hathaway, whose lunch bucket night included a broken nose, a fight, a critical penalty drawn, and an empty-net goal that sealed the deal.
Call it the Garnet Hathaway hat trick, with apologies to that other G.H., Gordie Howe.
Video: Oshie's two goals power Capitals past Rangers, 5-2
"He is a special guy in terms of his compete, his battle and his character is really high end," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of Hathaway. "When you have a guy that has a broken nose and comes back and then gets into a fight, and draws a penalty on which we score on the power play, and then ends up scoring an empty-netter, that's how it should work out. For a sacrifice like that, if you're willing to do those things, that's what - to me - being a Washington Capital is all about."
When Hathaway engaged New York's Brendan Smith in fisticuffs at 9:20 of the third, the Caps were holding onto a 3-2 lead over the plucky Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist was making some vintage stops to keep his team close. In addition to the fighting major, Smith incurred an additional minor for cross-checking Hathaway, whose nose was broken late in the second on a high hit from Jacob Trouba.
Video: NYR@WSH: Oshie tallies his second goal of the game
On the ensuing power play, Oshie scored his second power-play goal of the night, tipping home a Carlson center point blast. That killer instinct goal restored the Caps' two-goal cushion at 10:18 of the third, taking the starch out of New York's comeback bid.
With Calgary last season, Hathaway drew 28 minor penalties, tied for 25th in the NHL. Among all the players who drew more penalties than Hathaway, 23 had significantly more ice time. Putting his team on the power play is an underrated - and critical - part of his game.
Standing in front of his dressing room stall with a wad of cotton jammed up his swollen and blood-encrusted nostril, Hathaway was asked about his unique skill.
"It's not something you go out and try to think about," says Hathaway of drawing that key call. "You just try to play hard, and play through the whistle. So it's nice when you have a power play that's this solid. We had our chances, and we capitalized. That was a big one for us."
Video: Postgame | October 18
Washington took advantage of an early power play opportunity to get a leg up on the Rangers. Oshie made a good play to flag down a Trouba clearing try, preventing New York from getting a change, and then both Oshie and Alex Ovechkin made strong plays to keep the puck in the Rangers' zone. With Oshie parked on the doorstep, Nicklas Backstrom floated a pass his way. Oshie fired two or three times from point blank range on Lundqvist, who couldn't manage to corral the puck. Eventually, it went in off the skate of Blueshirts blueliner Marc Staal at 2:24 of the first, credited to Oshie as an unassisted power-play goal.
New York got even on a power play of its own at 12:25 of the initial period. Mika Zibanejad made a nifty play out of the right-wing corner, feeding Pavel Buchnevich in the slot. Buchnevich got Holtby to commit, then lifted the puck over him into a yawning cage to knot the score.
Less than three minutes later, the Caps regained their lead. Carlson put a center point drive toward the net, but it was blocked by the Rangers defense. Ovechkin collected it and shot, and Lundqvist made the save, but pushed the rebound directly to Kempny, who promptly buried it at 15:16, putting the Caps back on top, 2-1.
Early in the second, the Caps went up by two on a strong shift in the offensive zone from the fourth line. Dmitry Orlov put a shot squarely off the left pipe, and bounced right to Nic Dowd, who didn't miss, potting his first of the season at 3:45 to make it a 3-1 game.
Video: NYR@WSH: Dowd puts home rebound for two-goal lead
The Caps had several chances to improve upon their advantage, but Lundqvist denied a Jakub Vrana penalty shot try and an Orlov breakaway as well.
Late in the middle frame, the Rangers closed to within a goal again on a pretty give-and-go play with Chris Kreider returning the puck to Artemi Panarin for the finish at 16:56. On the very next shift, Lundqvist made another strong save, sprawling to thwart Oshie from in tight. It was one of five saves he made on the Caps in less than three minutes at the end of the second.
Early in the third, Lundqvist stopped Ovechkin three times on the same shift, all from inside 20 feet away. He kept the Rangers close until the midpoint of the third, until Hathaway and the Caps' power play made the difference in the back half of the third.
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | October 18
"I think special teams played some part of it," says Rangers coach David Quinn, "but from my end of it, it was just how bad we were defensively. The glaring chances we gave up, the number of glaring chances we gave up, turnovers, and a lack of urgency in the [defensive] zone. That's where all our troubles started."
There's an old and underrated Fleetwood Mac song (and album) - from before Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined the band - called "Heroes Are Hard To Find." That wasn't the case at all for the Caps on Friday.
"Obviously we didn't do a good job earlier in the year of closing out third-period leads," says Oshie. "Today, we stepped up. I thought the guys did a lot better job. A lot of good jobs tonight by a lot of guys that maybe didn't get on the scoresheet, but were blocking shots and making plays at the right time to give us a better chance to win."