Tale of the Tape: Capitals vs Rangers

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals will host the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal (12:30 pm ET, NBC). The Rangers lead the series 2-1; here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Leading scorers

Washington: Alex Ovechkin (3G-3A-6PTS) | New York: Brad Richards (4G-5A-9PTS)

Starting goalies

Washington: Braden Holtby (5-5, 1.94 GAA) | New York: Henrik Lundqvist (6-4, 1.55 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series split 2-2.

Nov. 25: New York 6, at Washington 3
Dec. 28: at Washington 4, New York 1
Feb. 12: At New York 3, Washington 2
Apr. 7: Washington 4, at New York 1

Game 1: New York 3, Washington 1

One of the things both teams had in common in the first round is that they blocked a ton of shots. That trend persisted into the series opener. The Capitals and Rangers blocked 14 shots each and they combined for a mere 32 shots on goal.

The lack of action proved to be an unusual challenge for Braden Holtby, who had faced at least 29 shots per game in the first round. He admitted after the contest that it was hard to stay focused.

That didn’t seem to be an issue for Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 17 of 18 shots. In the battle between these two defensively adept squads, the Rangers struck first.

Game 2: Washington 3, New York 2

Holtby looked much better in Game 2, but he wasn’t the story of this contest. Alex Ovechkin logged a mere 3:33 minutes of playing time in the first period and was even held off the ice during several offensive zone faceoffs. However, the Capitals had a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, so it was hard to fault coach Dale Hunter for his choice.

The Capitals maintained their one-goal lead until Ryan Callahan found the back of the net at 6:58 of the third period. With the game now tied, the Capitals scrambled to regain their edge. As luck would have it, the Rangers were willing to help them by committing two minor penalties in the span of less than three minutes.

New York successfully killed off the first penalty, but Ovechkin scored his third goal of the playoffs shortly after the Rangers committed their second penalty of the period. Ovechkin still ended up with just 13:36 minutes of playing time, but he made a big difference.

Game 3: New York 2, Washington 1 (3OT)

After 114:41 minutes of playing time, Marian Gaborik finally ended Game 3. The contest took well over four hours to complete.

This match featured several warriors, but none more noteworthy than Ryan McDonagh, who logged a stunning 53:17 minutes of playing time. Marc Staal finished just 26 seconds shy of breaching the 50-minutes mark.

Gaborik’s winner was his first goal since Game 1 of the first round on April 12. After nearly two months of failing to find the back of the net, he might have finally broken out of that slump.

Injuries

New York: Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), Mats Zuccarello (wrist), Michael Sauer (concussion)

Washington: Tomas Vokoun (groin), Tom Poti (groin)

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.