(But not Goat.)
Mike Knuble had, by my count, at least three quality scoring chances in tight on Henrik Lundqvist just in Tuesday night’s first period, and as all of them went unlit and uncelebrated you had this sense that it just wasn’t going to be his night. Again. He hadn’t scored since opening night in Atlanta way back on October 8. Then a pagan priest in skates named Ovi slid a puck out front in the slot in period number two, Knuble banged it home, and the hockey gods surrendered their torment of the Caps’ right wing. Joe B during his call for Versus last night noted that a good many of Knuble’s 29 goals last season came in the season’s second half.
- This game was appreciably more physical than Sunday’s with Philadelphia. It was a Tuesday night tilt in November, and yet there was plenty of mutual hatred in place. Just like you might imagine there ought to be between old Patrick division rivals. It doesn’t matter how early in the season they play, or what circumstances have otherwise influenced the teams’ general standing, the matchup is intrinsically ire-laden. It is so beautiful to behold. And so tragic we can’t more often. (Thanks, commish.)
- Mike Green’s four-game goal scoring streak ended, and I was one who believed that had he gotten one by Lunqvist last night the remainder of the week set up well for a run at his record of goals in eight straight games. Oh, well. He’s playing terrific hockey, and he’s a key catalyst for the Caps’ attack. He also acquited himself rather well in his slow dance with Brandon Dubinsky. This is a fiestier Mike Green we’re seeing this season, and we like it.
- More goats, more donkeys, too, I say: Brooks Laich, on his lunchpail tally in tight to draw the caps even at 1 in the first frame: “Any donkey can go to the front of the net and stand there with his stick on the ice.” In point of fact, Laich’s redirection of Alex Semin’s superb feed was anything but a gimme. Laich’s three points Tuesday night helped push him into the top of the league in plus-minus, at +13.
- If I were Bruce Boudreau, I’d have given the night’s hard hat to Matt Bradley. I’d probably give it to him 50 percent of the time given that he is probably the hardest worker on the team night in, night out, but Tuesday night he earned it, I’d submit, because he set up the game-winner with Nick Backstrom’s patience and skill but in a grinder’s body. And on his other shifts he did a lot of dirty work for good measure.
- Already trailing 1-0, the Caps went short-handed for a too many men on the ice infraction, and seconds later Mike Green took a hooking penalty. The Rangers had about 1:40 of 5-on-3 attack, but Jeff Schultz authored perhaps he best penalty killing shift of the season for all of the 100 seconds. Regularly he got down low on the ice to expand his reach and clog passing lanes immediately in front of Michal Neuvirth. The Rangers didn’t bring much puck pressure to that attack, but Sarge was large at a pivotal moment in the early going.
- You lie if you claim you didn’t do a double-take on John Erskine’s left-point howitzer blast past Lundqvist’s shoulder. Had to have been the most impressive tally of his life, all things considered. What a beauty. But mere seconds later Tyler Sloan produced a squelching of the joy-buzz with his ill-advised, shockingly aggressive pinch attempt deep in the Blueshirts’ end. That type of uber aggressive play simply has to be made in this league — even against an opponent’s fourth line. Better would be backing off and not allowing a Neanderthal like the Boogie Man to plod down the wing unchecked and smash a slapper past your helpless goalie.
- Defensive blunders on both sides of the ice, one by Karl Alzner on the second goal with a careless clear and Sloaner’s piss-poor pinch, are blunders of inexperience in the faster paced NHL. On the whole the Caps’ blueline has been more disciplined this season, but they also have been susceptible to miscues on some of the simplest plays. Alzner’s unforced error on Brian Boyle’s second goal was a perfect example. But I’m not sure Alzner should be singled out for a struggle of an evening. Gabby gave him more than 20 minutes of ice, and I’m one who doesn’t read a great deal into weird events transpiring on MSG ice — annually one of the worst sheets in the league. The puck was bouncing all over the place last night.
- Sean Avery was a conspicuously silent presence Tuesday evening, not getting involved all that much. That may have been where New York went wrong. Avery’s dynamic pest style normally gets Ovi and co. riled up and distracted. If Avery isn’t being a pest odds are he isn’t helping his team much.
- Referee Don Van Massenhoven was perfectly positioned for Dan Girardi’s attempt on Brooks Laich’s life in the end boards behind Lundqvist in the second period, and yet did nothing. The trailing referee — trailing outside the Rangers’ zone — made the call. How does Van Massenhoven miss that? Laich was lucky not to leave the ice on a stretcher. Van Massenhoven shouldn’t work again until the new year. Disgraceful.