The Washington Capitals begin a back-to-back set at home this weekend with a tilt against the New York Rangers on Saturday. The two teams have met once before this season, with the Rangers taking the first game 4-2 in the Big Apple on February 4. Puck drop for Saturday’s game is set for just after 12:30 pm.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers come to town with a record of 5-7-3 (13 points), six points out of a playoff spot and six points behind the Capitals and Islanders for third place in the East Division. The Blueshirts last outing was an impressive 3-2 shootout victory over the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday night. It was their first win in five games.
Artemi Panarin leads the Rangers in goals (5), assists (11) and total points (16). Pavel Buchnevich is second on the team in goals (4), assists (6) and total points (10). Ryan Strome and Kris Kreider each have four goals. Colin Blackwell, a free-agent signing in October, is next on the team with three goals.
Igor Shesterkin has been named the starter for Saturday’s game against the Capitals. He is 3-5-1 with a 2.36 GAA and a .918 save percentage in nine starts this season. Shesterkin was in goal for the Rangers the last time they faced the Capitals. He stopped 31 of 33 shots for a .939 game save percentage and the win.
The Capitals play the second game of a five-game home stand on Saturday. The team is on a two-game winning streak after snapping a four-game losing streak against the Penguins on Tuesday. Last time out the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Thursday night. It marks the first time in just under two years that Washington has limited the opposition to one or zero goals against in consecutive contests.
The Capitals bottom six is currently thriving, with the team’s third line (Conor Sheary, Lars Eller and Richard Panik) being the team’s best line right now.
Capitals bench boss Peter Laviolette would not commit to a starting goaltender during his Friday afternoon media availability. Vitek Vanecek got the start in the previous meeting in New York, stopping 27 of 30 shots for a .900 game save percentage. Ilya Samsonov returned from Hershey on Friday and will likely get a start in one of the two games this weekend.
GENERAL TEAM STATS
The Capitals are currently 5th in the league in goals per game played at 3.47, but are also 5th in the league in goals against per game played at 3.40. Here are the shooting, scoring and faceoff stats for the two teams:
Capitals On The Powerplay – The Capitals have the third-best power play percentage with a 32.4% conversion rate. The Rangers have the leagues ninth-best penalty kill with a 82.9% kill rate. Advantage: Draw.
Rangers On The Powerplay – The Rangers are ranked 27th in the NHL on the power play while the Capitals have the league’s 14-best penalty kill at 80.0%. Advantage: Capitals.
MATCHUP – ADVANCED STATS
The Rangers got a goal from Ryan Strome just 1:41 into the game and added a second tally from Anthony Bitettto midway through the middle frame to stake a 2-0 lead. Carl Hagelin notched a tally in his old stomping grounds with 1:03 left in the second period for a 2-1 Rangers advantage at the second intermission.
Strome would score his second goal of the game early in the final frame to reinstate the Rangers two-goal lead, but Alex Ovechkin would answer, scoring his third goal of the season at 11:01 of the final frame. The Rangers would seal the deal with a goal from Pavel Buchnevich with 27 seconds left for the 4-2 win.
Last time out the Capitals led in shot attempts 46-39 (54.12 CF%) and scoring chances 22-21, with the Rangers leading in xGF% (54.4%).
All three of the Rangers goals were even-strength (with one empty net goal) and came from close range.
Highlights From Previous Meeting
By Jon Sorensen