shavings game 4

Forget About Tomorrow Today – A week after their first-round best-of-seven playoff series against the New York Rangers began at Madison Square Garden, the Caps are fighting to keep their season alive. As they take the ice at Capital One Arena for Game 4 against the Rangers tonight, the Capitals are looking to force a return trip to Manhattan for a Game 5 on Wednesday night at MSG.

Over the course of nearly half a century in the NHL, Washington has been swept in three previous best-of-seven sets, but never in the first round. The Caps have exited via sweep in the second round (vs. Tampa Bay in 2011), the third round (vs. Boston in 1990) and in the Cup Final (vs. Detroit in 1998). The Caps have also been down 0-3 in three other series, but in each case they were able to win Game 4 before bowing out (1994 vs. the Rangers, 2000 vs. Pittsburgh and 2020 vs. the Islanders).

On Saturday, both the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to stay alive with Game 4 victories on home ice, and the Caps are aiming to follow suit tonight in the District.

“Watching those games, it excited me a little bit,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “Because you see there is fight; the home crowds are into it. And we’re not laying down. It’s exciting to play in another playoff game and to have an opportunity to see tomorrow.

“Today felt good; we had a good conversation and a good meeting this morning. And that’s our mindset – it’s one game. We know all the things that we need to do from an X’s and O’s strategic standpoint, but we’re excited that we get to continue our season, and find a way to win one game on home ice tonight.”

During the regular season, the Caps’ 28-5-5 record when scoring the game’s first goal was seventh best in the NHL (.737 points pct.). But including the tail end of the regular season, the Caps have now lost five of the last eight games in which they’ve managed the game’s opening salvo. At this time of year when momentum is everything, they simply haven’t been able to grab it very frequently, or to hold it for very long on the occasions when they do. And although the Rangers have yielded the game’s first goal in each of the last two games, they have yet to yield a goal at any point later in any of the three games that has caused them to fall behind.

New York has answered each of those two game-opening goals quickly; Washington’s lead time in the series is limited to 3 minutes and 21 seconds of the 180 minutes of hockey that has been played. It’s the least amount of lead time enjoyed by any of the 16 first-round combatants.

“I think that comes in kind of a shift after shift, wave mentality,” says Caps’ right wing T.J. Oshie of getting a hold of momentum. “We need all four forward lines continuously getting pucks deep and continuously building momentum. Even if you don’t score or you don’t get a shot on net, [it’s about] frustrating them with how hard we’re going to work, how much we’re going to come at them, and how hard we’re going to play.”

The Caps can’t win four games tonight; they can only win one, and that’s their focus.

“In the playoffs, winning one game is huge,” says Caps’ right wing Tom Wilson. “No matter what point in the series, you win one game, and they start to think about it. You go on the road and you steal one, and you’ve got a whole new series. In the past, teams I’ve been a part of have won four in a row at different stages throughout the series plenty of times. That being said, you don’t even want to be in this position.

“There’s only one way from here, and that’s up. We’ve got to do our best tonight to take the first one, and if you start feeling good about your game, that can creep into the opposition’s head a little bit, and then they start second-guessing themselves and you can go on a bit of a run.

“We’re not looking that far ahead. We’ve got to make sure that we take one, and from there, things can fall into place to try and get back into this thing.”

“Your back is against the wall; you’ve got to throw everything at them,” says Oshie. “There really isn’t any reason to be nervous, and we don’t have time for it. So just go out there and get to our game. We looked at some stuff this morning that I think will help us in the match tonight. We’ve got our fans behind us, which always gets the boys going, so we’re excited about the challenge.”

Welcome Back – During the 2023-24 regular season, defensemen Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin were both core pieces on the Washington blueline. Jensen averaged 19:38 per night in ice time while skating in 78 of 82 games, and Sandin averaged 21:07 per game while suiting up for 68 contests.

The Caps managed to win the only two regular season games – the last two – they played without both players, but they have yet to find a way to do so in the postseason. It’s tough for any team to be without half of its top four on defense, but even more so when you’re going up against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team in the first round of the playoffs.

Both Jensen and Sandin have been gradually working their way towards a return for weeks now – Sandin last played on April 7 and Jensen on April 13 – but both appear to be on the verge of returning tonight to help the Caps try to extend their season.

“It should help us a bunch,” says Carbery. “It’s two guys who have been in our lineup a majority of the year, good individual defensemen. Both do different things, but both give us NHL caliber [defensemen], which we’ve had there, but I’m just saying from a standpoint of them having a ton of experience in these situations.”

Currently carrying four defensemen on their roster who were with AHL Hershey in late March, the Caps lost another one in Friday’s Game 3 when Trevor van Riemsdyk left the game in the first period after taking a high and heavy hit from New York forward Matt Rempe. With the injury to Vincent Iorio early in the second period of Game 1, the Caps have played nearly half of this series (83:02 of the total of 180 minutes) without the full complement of six defensemen (h/t Carter Myers).

When van Riemsdyk was lost for the last 48 minutes of Game 3, it left the Caps with three blueliners who have less than 100 games worth of NHL experience, and just one – John Carlson – with more than 220 games in the League.

Without Sandin, the Caps used van Riemsdyk and Alex Alexeyev on their second power play unit. During the season, van Riemsdyk averaged all of six seconds per game in power play time; that ratcheted up to 1:30 per game in the first three games of this series. Alexeyev went from an average of three seconds per game with the extra man to 40 seconds per contest this series.

During the regular season, Jensen’s average of 2:46 per game in shorthanded ice time was tops among all Washington defensemen and it ranked him among the top 30 in the NHL in that category. In Jensen’s absence, the Caps deployed Alexeyev (2:26 per game in playoffs after averaging :28 per game during regular season) and Dylan McIlrath (:58 per game in playoffs, no regular season shorthanded ice time in three games) on the penalty kill.

At the very least, getting both players back in the lineup should make Washington's lineup more "familiar" in terms of who fills which roles as the 60 minutes play themselves out.

“Jens is a huge part of our penalty kill,” says Carbery. “Sandy runs the second unit power play, but also can eat a ton of 5-on-5 minutes and give you a little bit of an offensive shot in the arm potentially, make a play on a low-to-high, get a shot through, join the rush, break pressure. So there’s a lot of things that those guys can do.”

Washington has had eight different players make their NHL Stanley Cup playoff debut in this series, and with the return of Jensen and Sandin, tonight should mark the first game in this series that the Caps do not have someone making their playoff debut. Jensen has skated in 26 Stanley Cup playoff contests and Sandin has skated in five of them in his career.

During his time in Washington, Jensen has been Washington’s most durable player. He arrived here in a Feb. 19, 2019 trade with Detroit, and no Capital has played more than the 372 regular season games he has suited up for since.

It was difficult for Jensen to sit out and watch his teammates play without him these last couple of weeks, but he’s itching to rejoin them on the ice tonight.

“The last games of the season were obviously exciting,” he says. “And I was happy to see the success that finally pays off after the work that this team puts in all year, and battling through adversity and going through a stretch where it was pretty unlikely we were going to make the playoffs, and then seeing us do it, especially on the last game of the year. It was exciting.

“And then it gets tough going into the playoffs and watching guys battling and some guys getting hurt, and the physical play out there taking some of your teammates. And you not being there to go through it with them is a little tough, but I’m hoping to overcome that now, to come back tonight and join them in the battle.”

In The Nets – Charlie Lindgren makes his fourth start in as many games for Washington in this series. After being nicked for four goals against at 5-on-5 in Game 1 of the series, Lindgren has limited the Rangers to one such goal in each of the last two games of the set. He stopped 19 of 22 New York shots in Friday’s Game 3 loss, and will be seeking his first career Stanley Cup playoff victory again tonight.

Igor Shesterkin is again in net for New York tonight. He was brilliant in Game 3, stopping 28 of 29 Washington shots – including each of the last 26 he faced – to claim his third victory in as many starts in the series.

All Lined Up – Here’s how the Caps and Rangers might look when they take the ice on Sunday night at Capital One Arena for Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series:



8-Ovechkin, 24-McMichael, 77-Oshie

21-Protas, 17-Strome, 43-Wilson

67-Pacioretty, 29-Lapierre, 15-Milano

47-Malenstyn, 26-Dowd, 96-Aubé-Kubel


42-Fehervary, 74-Carlson

38-Sandin, 3-Jensen

27-Alexeyev, 52-McIlrath





2-Iorio (upper body)

19-Backstrom (lower body)

25-Bear (NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program)

57-van Riemsdyk (upper 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)