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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 5, Rangers 2

Caps finish homestand on high note, Kempny returns, Carlson stays torrid, Hathaway supplies grit and heroics, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Closer To Home - Washington's first homestand of the season didn't go well; the Caps lost each of the two games on that homestand in overtime after leading both games in the third period. They returned home this week for a three-game stay, and that one got off to an inauspicious start, too. The Caps fell down 4-0 in the first period against Colorado en route to a 6-3 setback. That loss left them winless in their first three games at home for the first time since 1983-84 (0-3-0).

But the Caps got things right at home over the remainder of the homestand. After taking a 4-3 decision from the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, they finished on a strong note, earning a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in a Friday night Metropolitan Division matchup in the District.

Although they've won two of five home games, the Caps have earned points in four of the five, and they'll carry their modest two-game winning streak on to Chicago, where they open a season-long five-game road trip against the Blackhawks on Sunday night.

Washington's early season schedule has been heavily laced with Western Conference opponents, and Friday's game was its first against a Metropolitan Division foe in nearly two weeks. The Caps never trailed on Friday, and they won the special teams battle and the game. After going 0-for-13 with the extra man in their first three home games, the Caps are 3-for-9 on the power play in their last two games in DC.

"Yeah it felt good," says Caps center Nic Dowd. "We see these guys a lot, and they're a good team. We knew they were coming off a back-to-back, and that's tough for any team, so we knew we had to take advantage quickly. Our power play was good, and I think our penalty kill played well as the game went on."

Back In The Saddle - Caps defenseman Michal Kempny played his first game in nearly seven months - since March 20 - after spending those months rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn hamstring.

"I felt pretty good, actually," says Kempny. "My legs felt good."

Kempny made an early offensive contribution, scoring Washington's second goal of the game in the first period. He skated 14:24 in his return, recording a hit and a blocked shot.

"I was very pleased with his game," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "Just with seeing exactly where he ended up minutes-wise, we had some target thoughts of minutes, and they weren't easy minutes, obviously.

"I think it was a perfect game for Michal to get back into. I thought he looked really good tonight, and you can expect to see more of him in Chicago, as we continue to build him up to have a full, successful recovery, and to playing good hockey like he did tonight."

Hardnose The Highway - Garnet Hathaway earned the dressing player of the game honor, the honor of conducting his postgame media scrum while sporting a Washington Nationals batting helmet. Hathaway earned it the hard way, by bleeding his own blood. After a high hit from Jacob Trouba broke his nose late in the second, Hathaway returned to draw a cross-checking call on New York's Brendan Smith in the third, and then the two fought, causing Hathaway to bleed more of his own blood.

It also put the Caps on the power play at a time when their lead was at 3-2, and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was in the midst of making a slew of great saves. T.J. Oshie scored on the power play, extending Washington's lead.

"I think we'll see that more and more throughout the season," says Dowd of podcast partner Hathaway. "I think that's what's going to make our team good, is that we have guys who are willing to do stuff like that. He draws a penalty, he fights a guy, he's got a broken nose from before the fight, and then we score on the power play. A 4-2 game makes a huge impact, and he is in the dressing room getting patched up.

"I think you'll see that more and more this season, that we've got a group of guys that are really willing to stick together."

Too Hot To Handle - With a three-assist game on Friday, Caps defenseman John Carlson has six multiple-point games in Washington's first nine contests of the season. Carlson is tied for the league lead in scoring and has seven more points than any other defenseman in the league.

Carlson has three three-point games this season, and is one of only six defensemen in league history to have three or more three-point outings in his team's first nine games of the season. He has had a hand in 17 of Washington's 30 goals on the season, and is just the second blueliner in league history to factor on as many as 17 of his team's first 30 tallies. Toronto's Tomas Kaberle also had a hand in 17 of the Leafs' first 30 goals in 2009-10.

Carlson is also the first Washington defenseman ever to record as many as 15 points in the month of October. His current six-game assist streak has been exceeded only twice in franchise history by defensemen; Scott Stevens had an eight-game run in 1988 and Mike Green had eight straight games with a helper in 2009.

Rebound - Braden Holtby returned to the net and stopped 26 of 28 shots to earn his second win of the season and his first since opening night. He made 10 of those saves in the first eight minutes of the game, as he bounced back from two subpar starts.

"It always helps to see some kind of normal plays to start the game," says Holtby. "It always helps a bit to get back into it. They have a pretty good offensive team, and [the shots] come in spurts like that. I thought we really did a good job, especially of defending the rush tonight."

So Young - On Friday night against the Rangers, the Caps got their first look at Kaapo Kakko, the second player chosen overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, and the highest draft choice - in the modern draft, since 1969 - in Rangers franchise history. Kakko skated 15:56 on the night, was a minus-2, was credited with one hit, and had no shot attempts.

"I thought he looked tired," says Rangers coach David Quinn of his 18-year-old rookie. "I thought he looked tired tonight."

In five games this season, Kakko has one goal and one point.

"I think every 18-year-old grows into the league," says Quinn. "There are just so many things at this level that an 18-year-old has never been asked to do, and he has never thought about doing. And I've said this a lot, but it's almost unfair to a kid like him who gets here. The game he has been playing to this point isn't going to happen from here on in. And when you have that talent, he is going to learn, because he wants to learn, he is committed to being a great player and we have absolutely zero reservations about what we have with him. It's just going to be a process, it's going to take some time."

Prior to Kakko, Pavel Brendl had been the highest drafted Ranger. New York chose Brendl fourth overall in 1999, and his NHL career lasted only 78 games, none of which were played in a Rangers sweater. He was swapped to the Flyers in August of 2001 in the deal that brought Eric Lindros to Manhattan.

Down On The Farm - The AHL Hershey Bears cruised to a 5-1 road win over the Senators in Belleville on Friday night. After falling down early in the first, the Bears scored five unanswered goals - including three in a span of just 66 seconds late in the middle period - to win going away.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby got the Bears started at 10:36 of the first, scoring his third goal of the season with help from Brian Pinho and Beck Malenstyn. It was Jonsson-Fjallby's third consecutive goal for Hershey, he scored the final two goals for the Bears in Wednesday's game in Toronto against the Marlies.

Hershey jumped out in front for good - and started a four-goal, second-period outburst - at 6:17 of the middle frame when Mike Sgarbossa netted his fourth of the season with help from Christian Djoos and Alex Alexeyev. At 14:43, Liam O'Brien notched his second of the season with a single assist from Philippe Maillet to push the Bears' lead to 3-1.

Less than a minute after O'Brien's goal - at 15:34 - Beck Malenstyn scored his second of the season, Djoos and Alexeyev assisting. A mere 15 seconds after the Malenstyn goal, Steve Whitney tallied his first of the season, with Sgarbossa and Matt Moulson drawing the helpers.

All that offense was in support of the 31-save efforts of Pheonix Copley in the Hershey nets. Copley improved to 2-1-1 on the season.

The 3-2-1-0 Bears are back in action on Saturday night in Laval, where they will take on the Rocket.

Down a level, the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays made it a clean sweep Friday night for the organization with a 5-3 road win over the Gladiators in Atlanta. Casey Bailey. Cole Ully, Andrew Cherniwchan, Dylan Steman and Ed Wittchow scored for the Stingrays in support of Logan Thompson's 20-save night in the South Carolina nets.

The 2-0-0-0 Stingrays host Orlando on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum in South Carolina's home opener for the 2019-20 season.

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 25:13 in ice time … Alex Ovechkin led Washington with eight shots on net and a dozen shot attempts … Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson had four hits each to lead the Caps … Jonas Siegenthaler led the Caps with four blocked shots.

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