Rangers-Capitals Preview

TOM CASTRO (STATS Senior Editor)
The Associated PressMarch 10, 2013

Fatigue may have played a role as the New York Rangers' winning streak ended their last time out, while the Washington Capitals also couldn't extend their run in their latest game.

Both teams may be tired Sunday as they continue busy stretches of schedule at Washington, where the Capitals have won four in a row.

New York (12-9-2) battled back to erase a two-goal deficit against Ottawa on Friday, but the Rangers appeared to lose steam in the third period and fell 3-2 on a late goal, snapping their four-game win streak.

New York was outshot 17-13 in the final 20 minutes of its second game in as many nights - Thursday's road contest against the Islanders went to overtime - and fourth in six days.

''We've just got to dig down deeper, play better and get the win,'' said the red-hot Rick Nash, who scored the Rangers' first goal. ''We just had to get going. We came out a bit sluggish. ... I thought we came back a lot better.''

Nash has scored six goals during a five-game streak - one shy of his career high - and has seven goals and seven assists during a career-best nine-game point streak. He has recorded five goals and six assists in a six-game run against the Caps.

Rangers center Brad Richards returned to the lineup Friday after a two-game absence following a hit from Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, and Richards scored in the first period to break a 15-game goal drought.

"It's always good to get a guy back like that," center Derek Stepan said. "He scores a big goal for us to get it to 2-2. He's going to continue to do that for us because he's a special player."

Washington's recent resurgence hit a bump Saturday, when the Capitals (10-12-1) lost 5-2 to the Islanders and had their three-game winning streak stopped. They had won five of six.

Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward scored for Washington, which like the Rangers appeared to run out of gas in the third period. The Caps were outscored 3-1 in the final 20 minutes, giving up all three goals in a 4:46 span, while getting outshot 19-5 and 45-24 overall.

Washington was called for four penalties in the third.

"I thought we played a pretty solid game - a couple of miscues, turnovers," coach Adam Oates said. "Other than that, we played solid, except the penalties."

Philipp Grubauer made 40 saves in his first NHL start for Washington, which will be playing its third game in four days Sunday. The Caps play 16 times in the next 29 days.

" ... It's going to be even more important (Sunday) that we come out hard. We know that we're playing a good team tomorrow, so you gotta rest and make sure you come out with a lot of energy," said Backstrom, who has a goal and five assists during a four-game point streak.

Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet Saturday, snapping a three-game point streak and leaving him one point shy of 700 for his eight-year career.

The Rangers took the first meeting of the season 2-1 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 17, but Washington has outscored opponents 19-5 during its four-game run at home.

The Rangers play their next four and five of six on the road.