It was a much anticipated match-up between the retooled Rangers and Tom Wilson [aka the Washington Capitals, but a 5-1 loss is not how Gerard Gallant or Chris Drury would have drawn this one up. Going with the surprise decision to start Alexandar Georgiev in net, and showcasing a "heavy" line-up, the Rangers started well, but were overpowered in the second period as the Capitals took over the game.
Special teams and goaltending proved to be the biggest differentials, with the Caps converting 3 of their 5 power play opportunities, and a shorthander by Alex Ovechkin to cap off the scoring. While breakdowns in front of Georgiev created the opportunities, the Bulgarian born netminder looked uncomfortable for much of his time, overplaying pucks and losing sight of the puck on more than one occasion.
In front, there were few bright spots after the first. The senior offensive forwards: Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider combined for just two shots on goal, both of them coming with the score already 4-0.
For the Rangers, there were few bright spots. Sammy Blais was certainly noticeable, both physically and with the puck. The best offensive chances probably came off the stick of Kaapo Kakko, who lead the team with five shots, and was the benefit of some good passes from Panarin.
Defensively, the Rangers still have work to do. Too often the team lost their structure and it was often a combination of fortune and individual effort that prevented the score from ballooning out sooner.
Things started well for the Rangers, who won the first faceoff, and got the first shot on net when Adam Fox patiented outwaited teh defender and set a shot on net. Less than ninety second laters, and they got the first power play of the game on a Laperriere high-stick that also ended up with Blais and Trevor van Riemsdyk going to the box for four minutes apiece, courtesy of a wrestling match after the ensuring whistle.
Gallant looking to balance the PP time more this year, started with the first unit, but replaced them after the first minute. Both units getting shots on net, but unable to convert. The Capitals would get a chance seconds after the penalty expired courtesy of a trip by Patrik Nemeth. As would be the cae much of the evening, they proved to be more efficient, with T.J. Oshie picking up a loose puck that bounced off of Jacob Trouba and through Georgiev, to take a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, it appeared the Rangers were going to be down 2-0, when the Capitals broke in 3 on 2 and Nick Jensen put it in the far post as Georgiev slid across. The play went to review on a possible offside, and was ultimately wiped out with the puck trailing the Capitals over the blueline.
A Chris Kreider slashing penalty with just over a minute to go, put the team shorthanded again, but the Rangers finished well enough to go into the first intermisison down 1-0, but outshooting their opponents 9-6.
With the penalty killed off, the Rangers owned the first half of the second, holding hte Caps shotless for much of the first half to take the game to the 30 minute mark. At this stage things began to unravel. A tripping call on Alexis Lafreniere opened up the opportunity the Caps had been looking for and defenseman Justin Schultz converted a long shot that beat Georgiev to make it 2-0.
Twenty four seconds later it was 3-0, as Oshie went two on one with the rookie Laperriere to give him a goal in his first NHL game. Two goals by Ovechkin in the third, moved him past Marcel Dionne for 5th all time in goalscoring, and cemented the loss.