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Capitals Takeaways

Takeaways: Capitals Pick Up Where They Left Off, Roll Rangers

Erik Gustafsson and the Washington Capitals returned from their break with a bang with a 4-0 victory over the New York Rangers. Here’s what to know from the win.



The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers got off to somewhat of a slow start as they got back up to speed following a three-day break for the holidays. After finding their legs, the shorthanded Capitals were able to pick up right where they left off, and it paid off as they showed up for a critical division showdown in the Big Apple.

Erik Gustafsson helped lead the way and stayed red-hot, while Darcy Kuemper put on a show en route to a 4-0 victory over the Rangers.

Here are all the takeaways from the victory, which puts Washington third in the Metropolitan Division.

Erik Gustafsson Stays Red-Hot, Blueliners Step Up For Washington Capitals

With John Carlson out, Gustafsson is one of the blueliners needing to take on a bigger role, and he showed up and brought that offensive prowess that No. 74 usually brings to the table to help lead the Capitals to.

The Swede picked up a secondary assist on a nice passing play that ultimately saw Marcus Johansson bury an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot that had been mishandled and nearly put in by Jacob Trouba at the line.

The helper extended Gustafsson's point streak to five games, while Kuznetsov extended his to three and Johansson got his ninth goal of the season and third point in four games. Gustafsson's 14 assists also now lead all D.C. blueliners this season.

Then, in the second period, Gustafsson found a shooting lane and rocketed home his fifth goal of the season after a nice feed from Conor Sheary. Gustafsson now has five goals in his last five games.

In addition to Gustafsson, the Capitals saw Dmitry Orlov take on more ice time and lead the team with 23:27, while Trevor van Riemsdyk also stepped up big time while taking on Carlson's role as the top-pairing RHD. He finished with 21:27 minutes. Nick Jensen, Matt Irwin and Alex Alexeyev also had strong showings.

Penalty Kill & Darcy Kuemper Clutch, Washington Capitals Play Confident

While the Capitals got a full 60-minute effort and excelled at 5-on-5, they didn't play the most disciplined game. However, special teams and Kuemper made all the difference.

While the power play got a 5-on-3 goal, it was the penalty kill that made a major impact and was stellar against red-hot New York. The Rangers have a lot of firepower on the man advantage, including Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, as well as Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko. The PK was able to read the ice well and shut them down, and also keep the puck out of harm's way as it went 5-for-5.

Kuemper was also stellar as he continues to get back in the swing of his starting job after he was out a couple of weeks due to an upper-body injury. The 32-year-old made 32 stops for his third shutout of the season. It marked the first time NYR got blanked this year.

Not only did the Capitals play a full 60, but they also played with confidence and didn't let off the gas.

Lars Eller also helped add to the win with his eighth goal of the season and made the most of his night wearing the "A" as an alternate captain with usual selections Carlson, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson on the shelf.

Sheary sealed the deal with a shorthanded empty-net goal.

More Washington Capitals Ice Chips

– Eller's goal moved him past Nikolaj Ehlers for the second-most points among Danish players in NHL history (362).

– Sheary now has 12 points in 13 games through the month of December.

– Dylan Strome has helpers in back-to-back games.

– Charlie Lindgren backed up and got to see his brother, Ryan Lindgren, face off against D.C. It would've been the first time they played each other.

– Anthony Mantha picked up his 12th assist of the season for his first point in three games. He also had a good look on a breakaway chance.

– Alexeyev almost had his first NHL goal, but his shot rang off the crossbar.

– Jensen exited early after taking a puck to the face.

– Alex Ovechkin had just one shot but was tied for the team lead in hits with Orlov and Garnet Hathaway (3).

– Hathaway led the team with three blocks.