NEW YORK (AP) - Henrik Lundqvist is playing so well lately, the New York Rangers’ don’t have to generate a whole lot of offense to win.
With speed throughout the lineup and a power play that is clicking on a nightly basis, it is no wonder why the Rangers are on quite a roll.
Rick Nash scored two of New York’s three first-period goals, and Lundqvist won for the fifth time in six outings as the surging Rangers beat the sliding Washington Capitals 4-1 on Sunday night.
“Starts are important,” Lundqvist said. “If you can jump out and start the right way and then get the momentum, then I think you set the tone for the rest of the game and you gain confidence right away.”
The Rangers’ offense broke out for the second straight day, after winning 1-0 over Detroit on Thursday. They recorded four goals for the third time in five games.
Lundqvist, who got the day off when New York won 4-1 at Ottawa on Saturday, was sharp in making 24 saves. He has allowed fewer than three goals in six consecutive starts. New York, 11-3-1 in its last 15 games, improved to 12-11-3 at home.
“It was a tough back-to-back for us,” Nash said of the Rangers’ weekend sweep. “Traveling (Saturday) and coming home to a team that is right on our heels … it’s a huge four points.”
Washington dropped its fifth straight (0-3-2) and completed a winless three-game trip against Metropolitan Division foes. The second-place Rangers lead the fifth-place Capitals, who have played two fewer games, by five points.
“We’re in a slump right now, that’s for sure,” Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said. “It’s tough, but we’ve got to find a way to get through it. We’ve got to start playing way better than we’re doing right now.”
Nash scored 1:10 in and added a power-play tally later in the first, giving him seven goals in eight games. Derek Stepan also scored in the first to chase goalie Philipp Grubauer. Ryan Callahan added a short-handed goal in the second.
Alex Ovechkin netted the only goal for Washington, which committed four penalties in the second to thwart hopes of a comeback.
“All the experienced guys, we’ve got to really stick together here and battle through,” Backstrom said. “It’s tough, but I think we’re going to turn this around, and we’re going to do it next game. We’re going to be much stronger after that.”
Despite recording only nine shots in the first, New York carried a 3-0 lead into the intermission.
Nash got the offense churning when he intercepted a clearing attempt by defenseman Dmitry Orlov at the left point and steamed into the Washington zone. He cruised through the left circle, came in alone on Grubauer, shifted to his backhand and lifted in a shot.
After New York killed off Washington’s first power play, the Rangers went on a 5-on-3 advantage with 4:13 remaining after Martin Erat and Karl Alzner took hooking penalties 23 seconds apart.