Ovechkin, Capitals hold off Rangers; Busy afternoon for Oshie (and his face)

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals were red-hot heading into Sunday’s game vs. the Rangers. Both Ovechkin and the Capitals stayed hot, too, beating the Rangers 5-4.

With this 5-4 win against the Rangers, the Capitals are on an absolute roll. Washington’s won 10 of its last 11, improving to 23-7-4 (50 points in 34 games played). For now, the Capitals stand alone atop the East Division.

This latest victory wasn’t just about Ovechkin staying hot, or Tom Wilson reminding us of his scoring side. So let’s take a look at another impressive Capitals win, as they smothered the Rangers … until they didn’t.

To clarify: at first, the Capitals smothered the Rangers with domineering defense. Then, Washington was able to outscore New York as the game broke down into an offensive onslaught.

The Rangers showed that they can’t be dismissed, as they made things very interesting late vs. the Capitals.

A physical start, Orlov saves goal after puck hits Oshie in the face

During their best moments under Peter Laviolette, Washington’s been able to clog up the neutral zone. That was definitely on display at times on Sunday.

The first period was especially hard-hitting between the Capitals and Rangers, and also represented the first series of bounces that really went Washington’s way. Well, unless you’re T.J. Oshie.

In a remarkable sequence, Mika Zibanejad sent a prayer of a shot that ended up hitting Oshie in the face, then Dmitry Orlov somehow kept that puck out of the net. As Ed Olczyk noted, the puck was basically a “rotation away” from ending up in the net.

There were multiple instances where Capitals and/or Rangers surprisingly barely missed shifts after scary moments.

The puck-to-the-face wasn’t the only violent moment for Oshie, as Colin Blackwell made Oshie answer for a hard, borderline hit on Kevin Rooney. (Interestingly, Blackwell received the only penalty.) Not long after Blackwell and Nick Jensen got tangled up, sending Jensen sprawling frighteningly into the boards.

Amid all of this hard-hitting, the Capitals rarely gave the Rangers an inch. From late in the first through much of the second period, the Capitals kept the Rangers without a shot on goal for about 18 straight minutes.

Ovechkin, Wilson break open game for Capitals vs. Rangers

For about half of the game, it seemed like we might be talking just about defense and collisions in Capitals – Rangers. Then Washington broke through.

It began with yet another goal for Alex Ovechkin, who now has eight goals in as many games. Goal 724 of Ovechkin’s career isn’t your typical Ovechkin tally, but he’ll take it:

If Tom Wilson can use his size and skill on offense, he becomes just as scary as his thunderous hits. Sunday provided a testament to those assets.

After a nice rebound goal after Jakub Vrana created some havoc, Wilson showed especially impressive hand-eye coordination to score his second goal. It’s impressive in many ways, including managing to avoid the goal being negated by a high stick.

A hectic finish

When Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a 4-0 power-play goal, it felt like it was all over aside from some wing-flapping celebrations.

Instead, the Rangers showed they could make things uncomfortable for the Capitals (not just the Flyers).

Players involved in earlier collisions ended up factoring into the medley of scoring.

For the first time in his NHL career, Colin Blackwell scored two goals in a single game. Then, T.J. Oshie — the player Blackwell went after following a hit on Rooney — scored what seemed like a 5-2 goal that would make the game a laugher again.

It did not.

Shaking off a game where he was lightly used, Alexis Lafreniere also got in on the third period scoring-fest. From there, the Rangers took advantage of a Tom Wilson penalty, with Chris Kreider scoring on the PP.

Just like that, a 4-0 lead devolved into a 5-4 nail-biter, but the Capitals held on to beat the Rangers.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

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    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

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    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

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    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

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