Surging Caps return home to face Rangers
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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals are getting hot at just the right time.
The Capitals won their fourth straight game and increased their lead in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
The same teams will complete the home-and-home set Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.
Washington (45-24-7) swept its three-game road trip, has won eight of nine, and leads second-place Pittsburgh by five points.
"I couldn't tell you who is in second, third, fourth," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie told NHL.com. "I know we're at the top in our division and we have to still keep going, keep getting points."
On Monday, the Capitals jumped out to a 4-0 lead on first-period goals from Oshie, Matt Niskanen, Alex Ovechkin -- his 45th -- and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Ovechkin's goal chased Rangers starter Alexander Georgiev. Ondrej Pavelec came on and allowed only Kuznetsov's 24th of the season, stopping 26-of-27 shots in his first game action since Feb. 9.
The Rangers rallied behind Lias Andersson's first NHL goal and Mats Zuccarello's 16th of the season, but Philipp Grubauer (28 saves) let them get no closer.
"We were able to win the second and third period, but you can't play a first period like that and expect to come away with two points against a good team like that," Rangers forward Chris Kreider told NHL.com. "It's a good learning experience for us,"
Grubauer has fashioned a 1.88 goals-against average over his past 25 starts.
"The guys in here, you could tell we weren't all that pumped up," Oshie told NHL.com. "We realize we won a period and that's about it. (Grubauer) won the rest for us."
Braden Holtby served as Grubauer's back-up Monday after being scratched the previous two games with a lower-body injury and is slated to start Wednesday night's game.
On Tuesday, coach Barry Trotz told the Washington Post that Grubauer suffered "a little tweak" against the New York Rangers on Monday night, and the team recalled goaltender Pheonix Copley.
"Our goaltending situation is really up in the air right now because we've got little nicks," Trotz said.
The Rangers (33-35-8), en route to missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, saw production from two players they hope will help them contend for years to come.
Anderson, 19, the seventh overall pick in the most recent draft, was making his NHL debut, and 18-year old Filip Chytil, chosen 21st, picked up an assist. Both players were called up Sunday from Hartford.
"Both kids had a good game, for an emotional day and an emotional game for them," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Post. "I thought they played well."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist (upper body) did not dress for his third straight game since being injured March 19. He returned to practice Tuesday and is slated to start Wednesday night.
"We have six games, you want to get out there and see some action," Lundqvist told reporters after practice. "Try to finish strong here. That's all we can do."
In his career, Lundqvist is 21-12-4 against Washington with a 2.65 GAA, a .908 save percentage and four shutouts. Holtby is 9-9-1 with a 2.44 GAA, .918 save percentage and one shutout versus the Rangers.
Ovechkin, with six games remaining to get the five tallies he needs for a 50-goal season, has 30 goals and 18 assists in 51 games against the Rangers.
Updated March 27, 2018