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Afterwards, Carlson said Morrisonn mistakenly thought the play was a delayed offside, meaning the Ranger forward couldn’t have touched the puck without a whistle.

“I kind of froze a little bit when [Dubinsky] faked the shot, but I didnt go down,” Theodore said. “That was obviously a key save.

“As a goalie, there is not a better feeling than when you bail one of your friends out of trouble like that.”

Washington, however, was the team able to cash in on ragged play by the defense, as the Caps extended their lead with 6:22 to play.

Parked outside the blue line, Semin fed a cross-ice to Brooks Laich into the Rangers’ zone, and Laich fed a streaking Eric Belanger who had gotten past a pair of Rangers defensemen — and Dubinsky — who were caught up at the blue line. Belanger skated in alone past Dubinsky’s attempt to slow him down and fired the puck past Auld for his first goal as a Capital.

“We fell asleep on the second goal,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said afterwards. “Semin throws a cross ice pass and weve got two or three guys who just arent ready. Thats the story of the game.

Belanger did get whistled for a high stick, and New York’s Ryan Callahan got a golden chance just over three minutes in to score with a turnaround backhand shot that was headed just inside the post, but Theodore just got enough of the puck of before it went in the net and kicked it out to safety.

After killing off the penalty, the Caps did buckle down more defensively, to keep the Rangers from lighting the lamp and being able to move into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Even given a pair of late power-plays and a chance to salt the game away, Washington sat back and was more defensive-minded, looking to get their goaltender the shutout rather than pinch at the points and allow New York a shorthanded opportunity.

Theodore, who last recorded a shutout last March 17 in Florida — and was subsequently benched after a poor outing in Game 1 of last year’s first-round series against New York — got his first one of this campaign in which he seems to be emerging past last year’s playoff hero Semyon Varlamov as the goaltender who likely will get the not once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

“Right now, the last month and a half I feel good,” Theodore said afterwards. “You just want to have that good stretch when it counts.

“I thought he was great,” Bruce Boudreau said of his netminder. “I thought he was by far our best player Any time they were putting pressure on us, Jose would get it and he would stop it and he would not let a rebound go tonight and thats, I think, the key to his game. Hes brimming with confidence and we hope he can keep it.”

The Capitals will continue their homestand Monday night when the Dallas pays a visit to Verizon Center, as the Stars — who are fighting to secure a playoff berth in the tightly-packed Western Conference — blew a 3-1 lead in Pittsburgh to lose Saturday afternoon on a road trip that will take the team through the top three teams in the East.

And on a night where the team looked to their past, the team hopes that its depth and goaltending will help them overcome an otherwise sloppy performance and carry high aspirations through the two-month grind of the postseason.