Rangers take control in second period against Capitals
WASHINGTON -- If there is one thing you can say about coach John Tortorella's New York Rangers, it's that they know how to shut the door on opponents.
The Rangers grabbed a two-goal lead in the second period and erected a wall in front of backup goaltender Martin Biron the rest of the game, carving out a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
The win was the Rangers' fifth in six games and moved them past the New Jersey Devils and into seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 13-9-2 record and 28 points at the midway point of their season.
"I thought we were really good through all (three) zones," Tortorella said. "We defended much better, we grinded and did our job on the wall. I think we're beginning to sort ourselves out as far as how we have to play and doing the little things within our system."
The Capitals lost for the second time in less than 24 hours and fell to 10-13-1, six points out of a playoff spot.
Asked to evaluate his team at the midway point, Capitals coach Adam Oates said, "Average. I think we can do a lot better. I think we've seen signs of what we can be if we do it right. We have to figure out ways to improve."
The Rangers received goals 41 seconds apart from Brian Boyle and Ryan McDonagh to take a 3-1 lead in the second period. They are now 7-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes.
Penalties to Mike Ribeiro and Jeff Schultz did in the Capitals in a 5-2 loss on Long Island on Saturday and two second-period infractions by Alex Ovechkin on Sunday led to two game-changing goals by the Rangers.
With the score tied at 1 midway through the period, Ovechkin got himself tangled up with Ryan Callahan in front of the Capitals' net. On the delayed penalty to Ovechkin, the Capitals captain got caught holding McDonagh.
But before either penalty could be called, the Rangers kept possession of the puck and Boyle hammered a shot past Braden Holtby for a 2-1 lead.
The goal was Boyle's first of the season and his first since April 7, 2012, against the Caps.
"I tried to start a new season, basically," said Boyle, who was a healthy scratch on Friday. "I tried to put myself in positions to do the things I can do well. I tried to keep it simple."
Since Ovechkin took two penalties on the same sequence, he went to the box for holding McDonagh and the Rangers made the Caps pay when Callahan deflected Rick Nash's blast from the right circle past Holtby for his eighth goal of the season and a 3-1 lead.
"To be honest, I know I tripped (Callahan) on the first one because I lost position, but I don't know about the second one," Ovechkin said. "Four minutes on one play, I don't know."
Callahan's goal came on the Rangers' 19th shot. Oates decided that was it for Holtby and replaced him with Michal Neuvirth, who missed the previous two games with the flu and had not played since Feb. 7 in Pittsburgh.
Neuvirth shut the door until Brad Richards beat him with 1:12 remaining to complete the scoring.
The win was Biron's first since Feb. 2. He was making his first start since Feb. 23 after Henrik Lundqvist was given six straight starts.
"We get him in a game, he wins us the game, plus it gives Hank [Lundqvist] a day off, plus a full day off (on Monday). I'm really happy how it played out."
The Capitals got on the board quickly when rookie defenseman Steve Oleksy scored the first goal of his NHL career just 2:16 into the game. Oleksy's shot found its way past Biron's catching glove and gave him four points in his first four NHL games.
The Rangers responded midway through the first period when Derek Stepan avoided an open-ice collision with Ovechkin, caught a return pass from Marian Gaborik, swung around the Washington net and banked a shot off the back of Holtby's skate and into the net.
NOTES: Capitals forward Marcus Johansson returned the lineup for the first time since coming out of the lineup with a head injury on Feb. 7. He replaced center Mathieu Perreault. Capitals defenseman John Erskine (upper body) skated during warm-ups but did not play and was replaced by former Rangers defenseman Tom Poti. Mike Green (groin) missed his eighth game of the season, and center Brooks Laich (groin) has now missed half the season (24 games). ... Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who was claimed off waivers from the Capitals on Wednesday, made the trip but was a healthy scratch in favor of Matt Gilroy. Defenseman Marc Staal missed his third straight game with an eye injury. ... The Rangers continue their four-game road trip with stops in Buffalo on Tuesday, Winnipeg on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Capitals play host to Southeast Division-leading Carolina on Tuesday, then visit the Hurricanes on Thursday and the Bruins on Saturday.
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