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Rangers strike early, often in win over Capitals
NEW YORK — Rick Nash scored two of New York’s three first-period goals, and Henrik Lundqvist won for the fifth time in six outings as the surging Rangers beat the sliding Washington Capitals 4-1 on Sunday night.
The Rangers’ offense broke out for the second straight day, following a 1-0 win over Detroit on Thursday, and 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 again 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. Washington dropped its fifth straight (0-3-2) and completed a winless three-game trip against Metropolitan Division foes.
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 period to thwart hopes of a comeback.
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.
Stepan pushed the lead to three just 2 seconds after Alzner’s penalty expired. After breaking a 13-game goal drought Saturday, Stepan netted his second in two days when he snapped in a wrist shot from above the circles.
That ended Grubauer’s short night as he was replaced by Braden Holtby. Grubauer was pulled in the first period for the second straight game. He yielded three goals on 14 shots Friday in a loss to Columbus.
Washington produced a brief spark when slashing calls against Chris Kreider, in the final minute of the first, and Carl Hagelin in the opening minute of the second, gave the Capitals a two-man advantage and generated a goal.
Ovechkin took a pass from Mike Green in the left circle and one-timed a hard shot that beat Lundqvist at 59 seconds for his NHL-leading 35th goal and fourth in six games. Washington put more pressure on during the second half of the power play, but the Rangers netted the next goal.
Dominic Moore and Callahan raced out on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush, and Moore fired a shot that Holtby deflected back into the slot. The hard-charging Callahan beat Orlov to the puck and slammed a shot in before barreling into the net.
Green had a goal waved off by a Capitals penalty in the second.
NOTES: Rangers D Ryan McDonagh had two assists. … The Capitals had failed on 14 straight power plays over six games before Ovechkin’s goal. … Erat was called for three penalties, including one for slashing when he jammed his stick between the legs of a seated Brian Boyle. … Including two games at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers will play five of their seven games before the Olympic break in New York.
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