NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, October 8th (All times eastern)
New York Rangers (2-1-0) at Washington Capitals (2-0-1), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The New York Rangers have a chance to gain an early measure of revenge when the team pays a visit to the Verizon Center this evening to take on Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
These two teams faced off in the quarterfinal round of last season's Eastern Conference playoffs, with the Southeast Division champion Capitals rallying to win a best-of-seven series that went the distance. New York took the first two matchups, both of which were held at the Verizon Center, and owned a three games-to-one advantage before Washington fought back to capture the final three tilts.
The Capitals will be out to rebound from a tough loss to another Atlantic Division member earlier in the week, dropping a wild 6-5 overtime decision to Philadelphia Tuesday at the Wachovia Center. Washington had began its 2009-10 campaign with back-to-back wins over Boston and Toronto.
Washington claimed a 5-4 lead in Tuesday's defeat on third-period goals by Alexander Semin and Brendan Morrison, but the Flyers would tie the score on Scott Hartnell's power-play tally with 4:15 remaining in regulation. Daniel Briere won it for Philadelphia when he fired a rebound of Kimmo Timonen's shot past Caps goaltender Jose Theodore with 1:08 left in the extra session. Theodore allowed just two goals on 16 shots after taking over for Semyon Varlamov, who was pulled just past the midway point of the second period after yielding four goals on 25 chances.
Both Semin and Ovechkin scored twice for Washington, while Nicklas Backstrom registered three assists in a losing cause.
Ovechkin, the recipient of the NHL's Hart Trophy honoring the league's Most Valuable Player in each of the past two seasons, has notched five goals and four assists over the team's first three games of 2009-10.
The Rangers have won two in a row following a season-opening setback to defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh, including a 3-2 road decision over rival New Jersey on Monday. Rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy snapped a 2-2 deadlock late in the second period with his first career goal, a blast from the right circle that found its way past longtime Devils netminder Martin Brodeur.
A few other newcomers made a contribution to Monday's victory as well. Rookie blueliner Michael Del Zotto had a goal and an assist, as did offseason acquisition Ales Kotalik. Veteran forward Vinny Prospal, signed by the Blueshirts in August, finished with a pair of assists.
"We're learning more and more every day," said Gilroy. "We're learning the system. You try to be as aggressive as you can and it's working out for us right now. We didn't come out ready to start (Monday's game) and coach (John Tortorella) let us know about it."
Washington won three of the four regular-season clashes between these clubs in 2008-09, including both games held in the nation's capital. The Rangers have lost in four straight and seven of their last eight non-playoff visits to the Verizon Center.
10/08 10:42:15 ET