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Callahan Scores Again, Leads Rangers Past Capitals

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Ryan Callahan

Rangers forward Ryan Callahan (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) Ryan Callahan scored for the fifth time in four days and defenseman Ryan McDonagh snapped a second-period tie to lift the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Callahan, who notched his second NHL hat trick Saturday with three goals in a 5-2 win at Philadelphia, got the Eastern Conference leaders going on Sunday in the first period. McDonagh gave New York a 2-1 lead with 6:39 left in the second with his fifth of the season, and Brandon Prust snapped a 48-game drought with a short-handed tally in the third.

Henrik Lundqvist did the rest, making 24 saves to earn his second win in two days and setting New York up for a showdown with the Stanley Cup champion Bruins on Tuesday at Boston.

The Rangers (36-13-5) have won three straight, four of five, and six of eight (6-1-1). They are 19-5-1 in their past 25 games and 33-10-3 since starting the season 3-3-2.

New York didn’t need its suddenly potent power play that had connected four times in the previous two wins after being mostly invisible for weeks. The Rangers were 0 for 2 with the advantage and killed both Washington power plays.

Alexander Semin scored, defenseman John Carlson had a goal and assist, and Michal Neuvirth stopped 25 shots for the Capitals, who have lost four of six (2-3-1) and sit ninth in the East playoff race.

Callahan has been on a three-game tear and has been the driving offensive force in the Rangers’ latest winning streak in a season that has been full of them.

The New York captain deftly dealt with a puck in his skates, off a pass from defenseman Anton Stralman, who found him on the goal line to the left of Neuvirth. Callahan kicked the puck to his stick, shifted to his backhand and lifted a shot under the crossbar for his 22nd goal of the season as he fell to the ice at 11:01 of the first.

The Rangers maintained that lead in a game that had many stops and starts and had trouble maintaining a constant flow over the first half.

Washington got even 6:31 into the second when Semin took a smooth drop pass from Jason Chimera above the right circle and fired a shot past Lundqvist for his 15th of the season. Semin has three goals and three assists in his past five games and 21 points in 23 games – including nine goals.

The lead didn’t last long, as McDonagh struck late in the period and narrowly avoided a serious injury in the process. McDonagh toe-dragged with the puck to get around Troy Brouwer and snapped a shot that hit Neuvirth before finding its way into the net.

On his followthrough, McDonagh twisted awkwardly and appeared to get his skate caught in the ice and crumpled. He was helped to the dressing room, without having a chance to celebrate his tiebreaking goal, but returned moments later before the second period ended.

Prust scored for the first time since Oct. 20 at Calgary, when he also notched a short-handed tally – giving him two goals in New York’s first five games.

Carlson made it 3-2 with 2:28 remaining with a drive that caromed in off McDonagh.

Lundqvist was tested at times and was up to the task, also getting help from several drives that were blocked by goal posts. Lundqvist made a stretching glove save in the third period, and even intentionally used the top of his helmet to knock a shot out of play.

Neuvirth got the nod by Capitals coach Dale Hunter over Tomas Vokoun, who had started four in a row and six of seven. Vokoun was in goal Thursday for Washington’s 3-2 shootout loss to Winnipeg.

NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal earned an assist on Prust’s goal, giving him his first point of the season in 18 games after returning from a concussion. … New York again was without LW Ruslan Fedotenko, who was injured Thursday against Tampa Bay. … The Capitals were 10-4-2 in their previous 16 regular-season games against the Rangers and 4-1-1 in six trips to Madison Square Garden.

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