shavings rangers game 3

Home, Home Again – After missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2014 last season, the Caps are back in the dance this spring, and on Friday night they host Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers. Down 0-2 in the series after a pair of losses in Manhattan, the Caps are looking to put a different paint job on the series starting tonight with Game 3.

“I am expecting a very boisterous, energetic building tonight, having never been in the building for a playoff game, and having watched a lot,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “But also having felt some games this year where I can only imagine what tonight is like, having experienced some games this year where you could feel our fan base, and the building, and the energy and the intensity. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Cap One looks like tonight.”

Washington went 9-3-2 in its final 14 home games of the regular season.

“At this time of year especially, the home crowd can definitely give you that boost, and we have a great one,” says Caps’ defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. “In the playoffs they definitely come and they’re loud, and they can make it difficult on teams, whether it’s bringing you back if the other team tries to grab momentum, or if you score, to get that snowballing and get it going in your direction. The Rangers did a good job of using theirs, and now we’ve got to use ours.”

Sometime To Return – Ailing defensemen Nick Jensen (upper body) and Rasmus Sandin (lower body) both graduated from powder blue non-contact sweaters to regular practice sweaters, so they are each a step closer to returning to action. The Caps have gotten some good mileage out of recent AHL recalls Dylan McIlrath and Lucas Johansen during the absences of Jensen and Sandin, and they’ll need more of the same for Friday’s Game 3.

Right wing Ivan Miroshnichenko is expected to make his Stanley Cup playoff debut for Washington tonight, skating on a line with Beck Malenstyn and Nic Dowd. Miroshnichenko is seeing his first live game action since April 7 against Ottawa. After blueliner Lucas Johansen stepped in seamlessly for Game 2 in New York in his own Stanley Cup playoff debut, Miroshnichenko would be the eighth Washington player to get his first taste of postseason play at this level.

Despite the absence of nearly three weeks, the Caps are looking for Miroshnichenko to also slot in seamlessly as he replaces Nicolas Aubé-Kubel in the Washington lineup.

“I think I’ve seen it go both ways,” says Carbery. “And our experience this year, I’ve seen it more in the positive way of being able to hit the ground running, and the time off or having not played and actually coming back in, there’s a jolt of energy, enthusiasm and highly competitive play from the guys that have been thrust into those.

“Even [Alex] Alexeyev this year, sitting whatever he sat out – 20 games – and coming in and playing really well his first three or four [games]. Lucas [was] solid the other night. So I don’t expect anything different. Miro is a mature young man. He has played enough games at this level; he has watched the series closely. We’ve talked to him a lot about what’s going on, he’s been at all the meetings, and even some individual meetings on his own. So I don’t expect it to be a huge shock, [or] him getting into the game and being completely overwhelmed. I’m looking for him to give us some good minutes, and to provide a lot of energy in our lineup.”

During the regular season, the 20-year-old Miroshnichenko had two goals and six points in 21 games while averaging 12:08 of ice time nightly. Although he ultimately projects as a top six type of player, Miroshnichenko will be handling bottom six duties tonight, though he has played previously with Malenstyn and Dowd. That trio has logged a small sample of just under 15 minutes together this season. And though the analytics are rough, that’s on brand for the Dowd line for years now, and it’s largely related to their deployment, which is mainly concentrated in their own end of the ice.

“We played that line in Carolina,” says Carbery, referring to an April 5 game in Raleigh. “And even though that game didn't go our way, I thought that line did a lot of good things, and I thought he fit in pretty well with the identity of that line. And I noticed in that game and going through his shifts that he was smart enough to alter his game a little bit and adapt to, ‘Okay, this is how these guys play. This is what I need to do. I need to make sure pucks advance, I need to move my feet, I need to make sure I'm on top of the forecheck, I'm reloading, I'm in good positions above the puck.’

“So, I felt like he fit in really well in that role, and that's all we're looking for. He doesn't have to save the world. We don't expect him to come in and be the best player on the ice or do anything spectacular. We're just looking for energy, competitiveness and him to give us solid minutes inside of our lineup.”

Driver 8 – The 2023-24 Washington Capitals are not the offensive juggernaut they’ve been for most of Alex Ovechkin’s 19 seasons in the NHL. And at the age of 38, the Caps’ captain isn’t the player he once was. But Ovechkin is still the focal point of Washington’s power play and its offense, and the Caps know they need more from the big man if they’re to have a chance to claw their way back into this first-round series with the Rangers.

This spring’s first-round set against the Rangers is the 24th Stanley Cup playoff series of Ovechkin’s career, and it’s the first in which he has been held off the scoresheet through two games. He also has just a single shot on goal through the first two games of a series, the lowest figure of his career. Ovechkin’s previous single-series low for Games 1&2 combined was four shots on net, in the Caps’ 2012 first-round series with Boston. That was during the short-lived Dale Hunter bench boss era in Washington, when Ovechkin’s ice time and production were both muted by the team’s system and style of play.

Lifetime, Ovechkin has 26 goals and 48 points in 48 games in the first two games of postseason series.

“I think we’ve got to do a better job – number one – of helping him as a coaching staff, linemates, teammates, of finding ways to get him the puck in certain situations,” says Carbery. “And then the second thing is just attacking, attacking as much as he can, and that’s not necessarily from the perimeter. It’s getting inside, taking an extra couple of steps, threatening to change your shot angle.

“Him and I have had good discussions about ways that he can get to the interior, and get his shot off more frequently, and that’s power play included.”

Ovechkin has actually teed up 11 shot attempts in the first two games of this series with New York, but Rangers’ goaltender Igor Shesterkin has needed to make just the single save so far. Seven of Ovechkin’s attempts have been blocked, and three more have missed. Typically, when Ovechkin is a while between goals, it’s because his radar with the net is a touch off, and he needs to slightly recalibrate. This particular dry spell is characterized by too many shots dying long before they get near the net. The fix for that is altering the shot angle, as Carbery notes.

“He’s getting the puck and shooting it right away,” says Carbery, “where he may have an opportunity to take an extra step, to take two or three steps to the inside, and now you’ve changed your shot angle, and now there’s no longer shin pads and stick in your lane.”

“I think just settle down a little bit,” says Ovechkin. “You have to be more patient with the puck because I know we’re playing against a good hockey team, and they’re going to sacrifice their bodies, they’re going to play hard against our top lines, blocking shots and [being] physical. We just have to play simple, and if we have the puck on our stick, don’t throw that away, try to find a lane. We’ve been in this situation before, so we know how to handle it.”

The Caps needed Ovechkin’s 31 goals – 22 of which came after the All-Star break, in a span of just 35 games – just to get into the playoffs; he scored the game’s first goal in the 2-1 victory at Philadelphia in the April 16 season finale that lifted Washington back into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Ovechkin ranked fifth in the NHL in goals from Feb. 6 to season’s end, scoring twice as many goals as his next closest teammates (Connor McMichael and Sonny Milano, 11 each) over that span.

If they’re going to claw their way back into this first-round series with the Blueshirts, they’ll need a more forceful and dangerous Ovechkin, and ideally a more potent one who is able to get more pucks on the opposing net, as in playoffs past.

In The Nets – For the first time since Jan. 24-27, Caps’ netminder Charlie Lindgren has yielded four or more goals against in consecutive starts.

“I don’t worry about Chucky,” said Carbery of his team’s workhorse netminder. “I worry about what we need to do to help him out. Is a recipe for success for us to give up four [goals] – the Washington Capitals? Absolutely not. I don't know what our record is, but I know it's not good if we're giving up four or even three goals, so we have to do a better job in front of him, whether it's penalty kill, whether it's keeping the [play at] 5-on-5, whether it's coverage stuff, whether it's a breakaway. For all these different things, we've got to help him out.”

During the 2023-24 regular season, four of Lindgren’s six shutouts immediately followed previous starts in which he yielded four or more goals, or in which he was pulled and didn’t finish the start. The first of those four was a Dec. 9 game at Capital One Arena against the Rangers; Lindgren blanked New York that night on 31 shots. Two evenings earlier against Dallas, he gave up four goals on 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime setback to the Stars.

For New York, Igor Shesterkin is in the net once again. When they dented him for three goals against in a 4-3 Game 2 loss, the Caps ended Shesterkin’s streak of 10 straight home playoff games in which he had yielded two or fewer goals against.

Shesterkin’s playoff career to date has been characterized by the gap between his home and road splits. He is 11-4 in his appearances at Madison Square Garden in the postseason, but in 15 other postseason games in all other buildings, he is 4-11 with a 2.89 GAA and a .913 save pct.

All Lined Up – Here’s how the Caps and Rangers might look when they take the ice on Friday night at Capital One Arena for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series:



8-Ovechkin, 24-McMichael, 77-Oshie

21-Protas, 17-Strome, 43-Wilson

67-Pacioretty, 29-Lapierre, 15-Milano

47-Malenstyn, 26-Dowd, 63-Miroshnichenko


42-Fehervary, 74-Carlson

27-Alexeyev, 52-McIlrath

46-Johansen, 57-van Riemsdyk





2-Iorio (upper body)

3-Jensen (upper body)

19-Backstrom (lower body)

25-Bear (NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program)

38-Sandin (lower body)








20-Kreider, 93-Zibanejad, 96-Roslovic

10-Panarin, 16-Trocheck, 13-Lafreniere

50-Cuylle, 91-Wennberg, 24-Kakko

26-Vesey, 21-Goodrow, 73-Rempe


55-Lindgren, 23-Fox

79-Miller, 4-Schneider

56-Gustafsson, 8-Trouba





17-Wheeler (lower body)