Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkineach scored in a shootout to capture a 3-2 win and valuable two points against the New York Rangers Sunday night at Madison Square Garden to wrap up the trip.
“It was a big week for us. It’s not just that we got six out of eight points. We played better as a team,” Backstrom said. “I think that’s the effort you gotta do if you’re going to fight for a playoff spot. You’ve just got to keep going here, keep working for 60 minutes every game and hopefully you get success.”
The victory, which marked Washington’s first shootout of the season, pushed the Capitals to 31 points. They trail the Rangers, who advanced into eighth place in the East by gaining a point Sunday, by two and are five behind the Winnipeg Jets for the lead in the Southeast Division.
It might not have been a textbook triumph like the two previous ones against Winnipeg on this three-game streak, but for the Capitals, showing the ability to scratch out wins even after coughing up a two-goal lead in the first period to New York is a sign of their development. There was a time when Washington might not have handled well allowing the Rangers to come back and tie a game at 2 before the end of the first period.
Players have noticed a change in the team’s demeanor during this trip, though, one that is allowing Washington to find ways to succeed.
“We’ve always had a lot of confidence in ourselves. We played a lot of good hockey games but were never able to finish,” Troy Brouwer said. “We were never able to grind out those points and steal some points; we actually gave up quite a few in the process. Now that we’re able to sustain games, finish teams off when we have the opportunity, like we did in Winnipeg, and then find another way to win. We didn’t really want to give up a two-goal lead, but it’s still nice to be able to get the [victory].”
Washington took an initial 1-0 advantage 7 minutes 54 seconds into the contest on a fortuitous bounce. The puck deflected up into the air around the crease and went off Backstrom’s collarbone and past Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist (22 saves).
Less than two minutes later, Ovechkin recorded his sixth goal in the past five games for a 2-0 lead. As the Capitals set up in the offensive zone, Ovechkin was able to position himself in front with absolutely no New York player near him, making for an easy tip in when Steve Oleksy fired a shot from the point.