Photo: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals visit the New York Rangers for the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Before the Capitals took the first game by a score of 5-2 at Capital One Arena on October 18, the Rangers prevailed 4-1 in the Big Apple on November 20 to snap the Capitals’ 11 game point streak (10-0-1) against them. Action from Madison Square Garden can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Capitals conclude a set of back-to-backs after falling by a score of 5-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. They are 3-0-0 in the second game of a back-to-back after dropping the first game. The Capitals also begin a three-game road trip in the northeast region. Before defeating the Minnesota Wild by a score of 4-3 on Sunday night, they had lost four straight road games in regulation. Overall, the Capitals are 22-10-1 away from Capital One Arena, which is behind just the Colorado Avalanche (23-9-2) for the best road record in the NHL this season.
While the Capitals have won three of their past five games, they have dropped two of their last three. Despite owning the fifth-best record in the NHL this season at 40-20-6, the Capitals are 14-14-1 since December 23. They have allowed at least three goals in nine straight games, where they have allowed a total of 30, and in 14 of their last 16, where they have allowed 58. The Capitals’ lead over the Flyers for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division is now down to one point and they can lose that lead with a regulation loss and a Flyers victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
Defenseman John Carlson’s 58 assists this season are tied with Rangers forward Artemi Panarin for third in the NHL behind only Edmonton Oilers centers Leon Draisaitl (65) and Connor McDavid (63). The 30-year-old has two goals and 13 points in his last 15 games. Captain Alex Ovechkin‘s 45 goals this season ranks third in the NHL behind only Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (46) and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (37). The 34-year-old has five goals and six points in his past seven contests after a five-game point drought but has been held off of the scoresheet in three of his last five.
The Capitals’ average of 3.39 goals-per-game enters Thursday night ranked fourth in the NHL this season while their average of 3.06 goals-against per game is slightly above the league average. After going 0-for-5 on the power-play against the Flyers, their 19.8% power-play efficiency is slightly below the league average. But the Capitals’ 83.3% penalty-killing rate is the fourth-highest. Their average of 32 shots-per-game is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 11th while their average of 30.2 shots-against per game is ninth. The Capitals’ 48.5 faceoff-winning percentage is the sixth-worst.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who is 16-6-1 with a .917 save percentage, a 2.40 goals-against average, and one shutout in his rookie season, will start for the Capitals on Thursday night after Braden Holtby made 24 saves in Wednesday’s loss to the Flyers. This will be the 23-year-old’s first career start against the Rangers. In six games since the NHL All-Star Break, Samsonov is 1-4-0 has posted an .892 save percentage and a 3.68 goals-against average. He made 29 saves in his last appearance, a 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday.
The Rangers continue a four-game homestand on Thursday against the Capitals looking to earn their first win of the stand after dropping the first two by a combined score of 8-4 to the Flyers and St. Louis Blues. They have dropped seven of their past 11 home games, going 4-7-0 in that span. Overall, the Rangers have a 17-15-2 record at Madison Square Garden this season.
After a season-long six-game winning streak, the Rangers have dropped three straight in regulation where they have allowed 13 goals. They have allowed at least three goals in four of their past five. The Rangers’ offense has dried up with only six goals over their skid after they scored 39 goals in their previous 13. They enter Thursday night four points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Islanders have played one more game than the Rangers have.
Panarin’s 90 points, which is already a career-high, in only 65 games ranks fourth in the NHL this season. His 32 goals are tenth while his +33 rating is the second-best behind only Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves (+44). The 27-year-old’s average of 1.38 points-per-game trails only Edmonton Oilers centers Leon Draisaitl (1.61) and Connor McDavid (1.56) on the league-leader board. He saw his 13-game point-streak, where he posted five goals and 19 points, end against the Blues. Center Mika Zibanejad, who has 11 goals and 19 points in his last 12 games, has recorded 33 goals and 66 points in only 53 games this season while center Ryan Strome, who has six goals and 15 points in his last 13, has enjoyed a career-year where he has recorded 18 goals, 59 points, and a +19 rating. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo has already shattered his career-highs with 13 goals, 49 points, and a +13 rating this season. Forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot last week and will be out four to six weeks.
The Rangers’ average of 3.29 goals-per-game ranks seventh in the NHL this season but their average of 3.09 goals-against per game is close to the league average. Their 23.6% power-play efficiency is fifth while their 78.1% penalty-killing rate is 20th. The Rangers’ average of 30.9 shots-per-game is 20th and their average of 34.2 shots-against per game is ahead of only the Chicago Blackhawks (35.6). The Rangers’ 46.1% faceoff-winning efficiency is the second-worst in the NHL ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres (45.8%).
Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who is 16-14-1 with a .912 save percentage, a 2.98 goals-against average, and one shutout this season, will start for the Rangers on Thursday. The 24-year-old is 0-2-1 with an .875 save percentage and a 4.06 goals-against average in three career games against the Capitals. In his most recent outing vs. Washington, he made 37 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss on March 3, 2019.
- Among goaltenders with at least 13 away games played this season, Samsonov’s two losses are tied for the fewest in the NHL while he is 10-2-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage on the road
- Ovechkin has scored 50.6% of his career regular-season goals on the road (356 of 703) – the highest such percentage among the NHL’s eight members of the 700-goal club, 3% higher than the next-closest player (Brett Hull: 47.6%)
- This season, the Capitals have outscored opponents by 13 goals (112-99) on the road and rank second in the NHL in road goals (Toronto Maple Leafs: 122)
- Ovechkin has 26 goals in 32 road games this season, which leads the NHL, while Carlson’s 32 road assists only trail Draisaitl (33) for the most in the NHL
- Forward Tom Wilson has scored 14 of his 21 goals on the road this season
- Of Wilson’s 21 goals this season, 12 have been scored in the third period, tied for the second-most on the Capitals (Ovechkin: 18; forward T.J. Oshie: 12); Wilson is one of four players who have scored at least four game-winning goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period and overtime
- The Capitals hold a record of 6-2-1 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season
By Harrison Brown