It took less than a minute for the Washington Capitals’ afternoon to unravel against the New York Rangers. They survived a bad goal allowed by Braden Holtby and were dead even until everything went wrong.
Alex Ovechkin tripped Ryan Callahan to get it started. Then he held Ryan McDonagh. Soon after, Brian Boyle scored on the delayed penalty and the Caps found themselves in trouble. Within 41 seconds the Rangers had a two-goal lead, Ovechkin was freed from the penalty box and Holtby slammed his stick going down the tunnel.
That wild minute spelled doom for the Caps in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday at Verizon Center. That finished off a lost weekend: zero points in two games, a major setback for a team trying to inch into playoff contention.
At the midway point of this shortened season, the Caps are 10-13-1 with 21 points, six back of a playoff spot and eight behind the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. The good news for Washington is that this week affords an opportunity to crack into that deficit with a home-and-home against Carolina.
Sunday did not include much on the positive side. Defenseman Steve Olesky scored his first career NHL goal in just his fourth game, and Michal Neuvirth was solid in relief of Holtby. There wasn’t much else.
Before Holtby got the hook from coach Adam Oates, he had an adventurous day. After Ovechkin avoided checking Derek Stepan in the neutral zone, the center found open ice and banked a shot in from behind the goal line off Holtby’s right skate. Even if he couldn’t be blamed for Boyle’s goal, or Callahan’s, the 23-year-old wasn’t at his sharpest in his 12th start in the past 13 games.
But neither were many of his teammates. The result was another difficult loss that put the Caps in full chase mode.