It was important that the longtime New Jersey Devil netted his first with the Rangers, but nowhere near as crucial that it came on the power play.
Gomez scored the first of New York’s three man-advantage goals in the first period—all set up in part by captain Jaromir Jagr—and the Rangers went on to hand the Washington Capitals their first loss of the season, 3-1 Friday night.
In what looked like a special-teams mismatch, the Rangers brought in an anemic power-play unit that had failed in all 15 chances over the season’s first three games. Washington hadn’t allowed a power-play goal in 12 short-handed situations while jumping to a 3-0 start.
“We knew it was going to happen,” Gomez said. “We just wanted to go more to the net. We’ve had chances on the power play, and tonight it finally clicked.”
Alex Ovechkin answered Gomez’s tally with his 100th career goal in just 167 NHL games. That briefly tied it for the Capitals before Straka and Rozsival put New York back in control during a period in which the Rangers outshot Washington 20-7.
Henrik Lundqvist was steady while seeing 25 shots, 14 through two periods, and helped the Rangers (2-2) snap a two-game losing skid.
The Rangers haven’t been disappointed in their play, just in the outcomes. Through four games, New York has outscored opponents 9-7 and outshot them 138-117.
“Our power play won us the game,” forward Brendan Shanahan said. “It’s obviously a results business, but we’re really trying to look at other stats that in the long run will get us lots of wins—that’s generating scoring chances and eliminating scoring chances from the other team.”
Olie Kolzig made 38 saves in facing his second barrage of shots in New York in two games. The Capitals were outshot 31-12 Monday on Long Island, but won 2-1 over the Islanders.
Giving up 37 shots and eight power plays against the Rangers in the first 40 minutes was too much to overcome.
“It wasn’t a good start,” Kolzig said. “You a give team like that that many opportunities in the first period they’re bound to get some in. It’s a lesson learned.”
Ovechkin, who broke a tie with Jagr for 31st place on the Capitals career points list (202), was whistled for tripping just 10 seconds in. It took only 1:23 more for Gomez to net his long-awaited first goal and point with the Rangers.
“My penalty was terrible,” Ovechkin said. “It was a big mistake for me. They score on the first shift and it was not good for us.”
Jagr made a backhanded pass from the wall to Shanahan in the right circle. Shanahan pushed it to Gomez, who was gliding to the net, for a quick shot past Kolzig.
“Jags started it all off, making that pass to Shanny,” Gomez said. “What can you say about that guy? ‘The Big Smooth’ just passed it right down and I threw it on net.”
Ovechkin tied it at 7:46, making a backhand-to-forehand move that got him past defenseman Paul Mara and sliding a shot in behind Lundqvist during the Capitals’ second power play.
But Straka and Rozsival scored 4:33 apart to push the lead to 3-1.
Kolzig protested Straka’s goal, scored into an open left side, because Marcel Hossa struck the goalie in the head with his elbow as he crossed the crease after his shot was stopped. The puck bounded to Straka, who easily netted his second of the season at 13:26.
Hossa appeared to be shoved from behind by former Rangers defenseman Tom Poti.
Jagr, who had the primary assist on Rozsival’s second this season, is still being paid $3.46 million this season by the Capitals. Washington traded him to New York in January 2004 after 2 1/2 failed seasons.
Jagr moved past Paul Coffey into 11th place on the NHL career points list with 1,533. Ray Bourque is next with 1,579. … D Paul Mara returned to the New York lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games. Jason Strudwick sat out. … The Capitals’ best start is 4-0, last done in the 1997-98 season when they made their only Stanley Cup finals appearance. … Ovechkin, with two goals and two assists, has points in all four games.