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Shootout victory gives Capitals third straight win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK - It wasn't perfection. But Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates and his team will take the two points they left New York City with Sunday night.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each scored in regulation and again in the shootout as the Capitals beat the New York Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden.

Washington (14-16-1) earned its third win in a row.

"We leaked a little while at times but then we kind of managed the game throughout and won on the shootout," said Oates.

Arron Asham and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers. Stepan also scored in the shootout. Even though New York (15-13-2) has split its past six games, the Rangers moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with the point they gained Sunday.

The Rangers are one point ahead of ninth-seeded Carolina. New York has 33 points compared to the Hurricanes' 32. The teams will meet twice more -- Apr. 6 and Apr. 25. Both of those games will be at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

"I'm not even thinking about playoffs," New York coach John Tortorella said. "I'm thinking about points. We get a point. Would we like to have two? Yes. But we didn't get it."

Both teams experienced momentum surges in the first period, as all of the regulation scoring was done in the first 20 minutes.

Backstrom opened the scoring 7:54 into the first period with his fifth of the season. Ovechkin increased the lead to 2-0 less than two minutes later.

"Obviously, a great start to the game," Oates said.

However, New York fought back on the strength of goals off the sticks of Asham (at 14:12) and Stepan (at 18:03). Stepan's goal, his ninth, came on a 5-on-3 power play.

"It was very important to us [to score]," Asham said. "It seemed to get the bench going and started to get the team rolling. They took a couple penalties on us, and our power play got us back into it. It's just too bad we couldn't finish it off."

Tortorella pointed at the work performed by the Rangers' fourth line as key to the comeback. Asham's goal cut the deficit in half, and Darroll Powe drew an interference penalty on Jason Chimera that led to Stepan's tying goal.

"They changed the complexion when we were down and scored a goal," Tortorella said. "Change momentum plus score a goal, drew a penalty. That was good stuff for us. It gets us a point."

The game remained tied until the shootout due to the efforts of the goaltenders, Washington's Braden Holtby and New York's Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist finished with 22 saves, while Holtby stopped 30 of 32 shots.

Both goaltenders made highlight-reel saves in the second period.

Holtby forced Marian Gaborik to shoot high and wide with 8:19 left in the second. Gaborik bore down on Holtby, sprung by a Michael Del Zotto home run pass, but instead of shooting, the New York winger attempted to deke Holtby to the ice and beat him with a backhander high to the glove side. Instead, the shot found the protective netting behind the glass.

Lundqvist matched Holtby by turning away Washington center Mike Ribeiro with a minute remaining in the second period. Riberio's shot hit Lundqvist in the mask, and Karl Alzner's shot on the rebound hit the goalpost.

"It was a hard shot and I kind of [lost] balance and ended up on my side," Lundqvist said. "I'm fine.

Lundqvist was troubled by the fact he allowed Ovechkin and Backstrom to score in the one-on-one.

"I only stopped two of four in the shootout. I have to be better," Lundqvist said. "You face really good players. I think the last one was a really good shot but Ovechkin, [I] felt like I had him but I didn't get the stick down."

New York was 1-for-2 on the power play while the Capitals went 1-for-3. Washington had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:42 early in the second period but only generated one shot.

"It's frustrating because it's a long one and we really didn't get enough good looks, quite honestly. The crowd was crazy and they killed the penalty," Oates said.

"We didn't let it break us down."

NOTES: Sunday's game was the third and final regular-season meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals. The Rangers won the first two games. ...Stu Bickel reported to the Rangers' AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, after clearing waivers. ... New York scratched defenseman Matt Gilroy and forward J.T. Miller. ... Defenseman Jeff Schultz and left wings Wojtek Wolski and Aaron Volpatti were scratched by Washington. ... Asham played in his first game since Feb. 19. Asham had missed 15 games with back spasms. ... AHL call-up Kris Newbury skated on New York's fourth line with Asham and Darroll Powe. Newbury had an assist and three hits in 8:55 of ice time. ... The game also marked the end of Washington's longest road trip of the season. The Capitals will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday before ending the month with consecutive games in Buffalo (on Saturday) and Philadelphia (on Sunday). ... The match also spelled the end of New York's four-game homestand. The Rangers will finish March with road games in Philadelphia (on Tuesday), Ottawa (Thursday) and Montreal (Saturday). ...New York has a practice scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday at their Training Facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. ...Rangers captain Ryan Callahan had a season high in shots with nine. ...Tenth-seeded Washington is two points behind New York for the eighth seed in the East.
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