Once again Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals found themselves in yet another one-goal game late in the third period. And once again the Capitals came out on the winning side of things, defeating the New York Rangers 5-3 in a physical game.
Matt Hendricks' goal at 7:53 of the third gave the Capitals a one goal lead, and Brooks Laich's empty netter with six seconds to go sealed the game for the Capitals. Laich scored twice, while John Erksine and Mike Knuble also tallied for the Capitals, who passed the idle Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings for the league's best record. Washington is now 11-4-0, a three game improvement from this time last season when the Capitals stood at 8-3-4.
The key to the game was the Capitals' third period. Though the Capitals were outshot 9-5, the Rangers couldn't muster a shot in the final 1:06 after pulling starting netminder Henrik Lundquist. The Rangers did manage to get the puck in deep on several occasions, but were unable to gain possession as the Capitals' defenders quickly cleared the puck. Mike Green, whose four game goal scoring streak came to an end, found Laich open just inside the Rangers' blue line for the easy empty netter.
To no surprise, the Capitals gave up the game's first goal at 4:02 of the first period on a backhand shot from Dan Boyle in front of Capitals netminder Michael Neuvirth. Boyle stopped a point shot from Dan Girardi and quickly put the backhander behind Neuvirth. After a power play goal by Laich at 8:52 tied the game, the Rangers retook the lead at 12:56 on Boyle's second goal of the period. Karl Alzner was unable to clear the puck after the Rangers failed to score on a 5-on-3 and Boyle used a wrist shot to beat Neuvirth, who didn't look like he was expecting the shot, for a 2-1 Rangers lead.
The Capitals have now led just twice after the first period this season, sharing that honor with the New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and the Atlanta Thrashers. The Capitals, though, are the only one of the five with a record over the .500 mark.
The games craziest sequence took place in the second period. John Erskine tied the game at 2:34 of the second period on a slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Lundqvist over his right shoulder. The goal was Erskine's first of the season and eighth of his career. However, just 41 seconds later, the Rangers' Derek Boogaard beat Neuvirth from the exact same spot on the ice with a slap shot to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Tyler Sloan over skated the puck in front of the Rangers' bench, which allowed Boogaard to skate into the Capitals zone freely. It was Boogaard's first goal since January 2006.
Mike Knuble would break his own scoreless streak in the second period after cleaning up an Alex Ovechkin rebound. It was Knuble's first goal since the season opener against the Atlanta Thrashers October 8 and snapped his 13-game drought, his longest since 2001-02.