NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers didn't always make the most of their chances Sunday, but coach John Tortorella was more impressed that his team didn't lament the ones it missed early.
Eventually, the Rangers cashed in on just enough of their 40 shots for a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden, their fourth win in the past five games.
Carl Hagelin scored his fifth goal in four games and sixth of the season for the Rangers, while Derek Stepan, thanks to some crisp passing, scored New York's sixth power-play goal in 52 tries this season. Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for the Rangers.
It was all enough to beat otherwise outstanding Capitals goalie Braden Holtby despite his 38 saves, as Washington's offense was stopped after John Carlson scored his second goal of the year a little more than a minute into the game. The loss ended a three-game win streak for Washington (5-9-1).
"That's the most important positive, is that we just stayed with it," Tortorella said, after the Rangers fell behind 1-0 early and didn't score until they had taken their 30th shot, in the second period. "It could have been one of those games; we've blown a couple of leads the prior two games and it's just not going well.
"I thought it was the most pace we played with in the first half of the game, and we stayed with it."
The Capitals, who were missing injured top defenseman and alternate captain Mike Green, were 0-for-4 on the power play as the Rangers have successfully killed their last 16 penalties. The Rangers also went 1-for-5 on their power plays.
"I still think we could have been a lot better," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "We obviously did some good things, but we took too many penalties and it ended up costing us. Our penalty killing has been better, but it ended up still costing us. We used a lot of minutes, a lot of guys using a lot of energy killing penalties."
The Rangers (8-5-1) nearly played without one of their top players, but forward Rick Nash was cleared shortly before game time and had an assist. New York, already thin at center, did lose center Darroll Powe on a scary play in the second period, when he remained on the ice for several minutes before getting helped off after a collision. Tortorella said after the game he was not sure about Powe's status, but that center Chris Kreider, called back up Saturday as insurance for Nash, will likely stay with the club for a while.
The teams entered the third period tied 1-1, though the Rangers had doubled Washington's shot total at that point, 34-17. New York entered the final period continuing its trend of looking as adept at killing penalties as it has been inept at cashing in on them. New York killed three penalties in the first two periods against the Capitals, whose power play is usually directed by Green. That gave the Rangers their 15th straight penalty kill, but New York also failed to score on its first three power plays, making it 5 of 51 on the season at that point.
But, just seven seconds after Caps defenseman Karl Alzner was called for tripping early in the third period, the Rangers' crisp passing helped give them a 2-1 lead at the 4:25 mark.
Brad Richards zipped a pass to Michael Del Zotto at the right faceoff circle and Del Zotto immediately drilled it to Stepan at the left post, where he nudged it past Holtby to complete the tic-tac-toe play.
"It's three great passes," Stepan said, including Nash's pass after winning the face-off. "Even Nash's spin-o-rama at the blueline was a great pass. A great pass from Richie to Michael. I'll take a bunch of those this year."
Holtby said the Rangers were so skilled on the play that "to be honest, those are the goals that are easier to give up. They're easier to bounce back from, because they made plays."
The Caps had a power-play opportunity when Nash was called for tripping with 6:56 left in the game, but couldn't convert.
For nearly a period-and-a-half, the Rangers amped up the pressure on Holtby, but the Capitals goalie denied them. New York finally tied the game 1-1 with 12:21 left in the second on its 30th shot of the game. Hagelin, from the right post, poked in a blast from Ryan McDonagh, with Nash also getting an assist.
"He's probably been our best forward," Tortorella said of the red-hot Hagelin. "Just creating offense; he's had the most energy."
The Capitals scored at the 1:16 mark of the first period, when Carlson blasted a slapshot from the right faceoff circle, but were unable to get on the board after that.
NOTES: Powe, playing in his 300th NHL game, collided with Capitals center Matt Hendricks and both players fell to the ice. Hendricks got up shortly after that, but Powe remained on the ice for several minutes and cameras showed him looking woozy as he was attended to by a trainer. Powe was eventually helped off the ice by teammates, with 16:09 left in the second period. ... Tortorella begrudgingly revealed Nash was "banged up" and was unsure about his status until just before game time. Tortorella first told a reporter asking about Nash, who missed practice Saturday, "none of your business" and said he wouldn't discuss injuries this year. Nash said after the game he felt fine. ... Green was out due to a lower-body injury sustained Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Oates told reporters at the morning skate. With Washington set for three straight days off, Oates said he hoped to have Green back by the next game, but wasn't sure of his status.