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Rangers With "Frustrating" Loss to Caps at The Garden

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The shorthanded Rangers fell to the Capitals, 4-1, in the final game before Wednesday's 3 pm trade deadline.

Already without defenseman Dan Girardi (ankle) and Kevin Klein (back spasms), the Blueshirts lost Mika Zibanejad to an upper-body injury. The center took warmups but did not play.

Despite the setbacks, the Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 lead 5:08 into the game when Brady Skjei completed a pretty passing sequence with Adam Clendening and J.T. Miller. Miller carried the puck into Washington's zone and hit Clendening with a pass in the slot, and he quickly hit Skjei on the outside of the crease for the tap in for his third of the season.

The goal was Skjei's 30th point of the season, and with it he became the fourth Rangers rookie defenseman since 1988-89 to reach that point plateau. 

Video: WSH@NYR: Skjei tips Clendening's feed into the twine

Similar to last week's meeting with the Capitals, the Rangers controlled the play in the first period but had just one goal to show for it. Skjei nearly beat Braden Holtby for his second of the night with the Rangers on the power play, but his blast caught iron and rang out.

And like last week, Washington entered the second firing and tied the game on a Marcus Johansson rebound goal 7:28 into the period. Dmitry Orlov fired a puck on goal that Henrik Lundqvist stopped, but Johansson beat Kevin Hayes to the rebound for the equalizer.

It appeared the Rangers tied the game when Michael Grabner poked home a loose puck on the goal line, but the tally was overturned due to a successful offside challenge by Washington.

"It's no goal but you have to make sure you're ready to go on your next shift," Derek Stepan said. "We just didn't generate enough for the second period."

The non-goal loomed large, as Washington would take the lead for good when Brett Connolly swiped in a puck from the slot between Lundqvist's pads at 16:26 to break the 1-1 tie. Washington outshot the Rangers 19-9 in the middle frame and did a good job of taking away scoring chances or giving the Rangers much to work with.

"They started forechecking us hard and causing some turnovers and we weren't able to get through the neutral zone like we did in the first," Marc Staal said. "We started making turnovers for trying to make plays that weren't there. They had good transition. They had a lot of guys coming across the line and were able to get some looks."

Johansson would add his second of the game 1:15 into the third and Nicklas Backstrom would net his 19th of the season on the power play to finish the scoring for Washington, and finish a frustrating night for the Blueshirts.

"It's just a frustrating night. You could feel it on the bench," Stepan said. "Everyone was frustrated. It is what it is. We've got to make sure we learn from it and get ourselves ready."
Head coach Alain Vigneault said the difference in the second period - and ultimately the game - came down to Washington's best players elevating their games after a disappointing 20 minutes.

"In the second period, their top players seemed like they took their gear to another level, and we didn't follow," Vigneault said. "Our top players didn't execute and compete as hard as theirs. They dominated, without a doubt, the second period. And in the third, we had a couple opportunities, our power play had a couple opportunities, and our guys didn't get it done."

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