WASHINGTON (AP) — Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 38 seconds into overtime to help the Washington Capitals move closer to their fourth consecutive playoff appearance by beating the New York Rangers 3-2 on Wednesday night.
Kuznetsov’s goal came after Washington’s Lars Eller tied it with 1:05 left in the third period with goaltender Braden Holtby pulled for an extra attacker. Holtby stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced to look more like the Vezina Trophy winner than he had shown in recent months.
Andre Burakovsky also scored for Washington, which has won five in a row and leads the Metropolitan Division. Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves for the Rangers in his first career game with no playoff implications.
Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner scored New York’s goals as it outshot Washington 37-33 in its first contest since being eliminated from the playoff hunt.
This was New York’s first game out of contention since 2004, but the Rangers didn’t look at all like a team with nothing to play for. They controlled the play from the opening shift and took a 1-0 lead on the power play 12:42 in when Hayes’ shot went in off the back of Holtby’s right skate.
Lundqvist used his glove to stop Kuznetsov on a penalty shot but wasn’t as fortunate on Washington’s tying goal with 32.1 seconds left in the first period. After a neutral-zone turnover, Burakovsky’s shot deflected off defenseman John Gilmour’s stick and past Lundqvist for his 10th goal of the season.
The Rangers outshot the Capitals 18-8 in the first period and gave them a scare in the second when Washington’s top-pairing defenseman Matt Niskanen went awkwardly into the boards and was in obvious pain. Niskanen went to the locker room but returned to the ice a few minutes later.
Spooner made it 2-1 at 10:35 of the third when he beat Holtby clean with a wrist shot on New York’s 37th shot. With Holtby pulled for an extra attacker, Eller scored with 1:05 left, setting the stage for Kuznetsov’s fifth career regular-season game-winner.
NOTES: Rangers assistant Lindy Ruff missed the game after hitting his head on the ice at practice Thursday. Coach Alain Vigneault said Ruff was hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion but was in good spirits and expected to be back with the team in a few days. … F Shane Gersich, a 2014 fifth-round pick who signed with Washington last week after his season at North Dakota ended, made his NHL debut. … Pheonix Copley backed up Holtby because goaltender Philipp Grubauer felt a “tweak” in the Capitals’ game at the Rangers on Tuesday, according to coach Barry Trotz.
Rangers: Return home to face the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
Capitals: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
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