It was the third consecutive game that the Capitals jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, but this time the advantage wouldn’t reach the intermission.
Washington failed to maintain possession in the offensive zone and a poke check by Kris Newbury sprung Arron Asham on a two-on-one. Asham carried the puck the whole way, and in his first game back after missing 15 contests with a back injury, the fourth-line winger rifled a shot that beat Braden Holtby high glove side with 14:12 gone.
The Rangers received the opportunity they needed to even the score at 2 when Jason Chimera and Karl Alzner took interference and slashing penalties, respectively, 25 seconds apart. Seven seconds into the two-man advantage, a bad-angle shot by Derek Stepan low on the goal line trickled through Holtby’s pads.
The two teams played a tight, heavy-hitting game the rest of the way, exchanging chances but with neither team able to pull ahead. The most encouraging part, though, was that the Capitals didn’t sweat the close contest and stuck to their game plan.
“You can tell that’s confidence,” said Holtby, who stopped 30 shots in regulation and overtime and thwarted three of four attempts in the shootout. “That we can play in tight games and we don’t let up or start cheating or start trying too hard. It’s good to see.”
Washington had a few opportunities in the final minutes of regulation, a backhand chance by Brouwer required a stunning pad stop by Lundqvist, but ultimately couldn’t end the game without the tiebreaker session. The last team in the NHL to play in a shootout game this season, the Capitals found a way to ensure they would capture the all-important second point.
“It started in Winnipeg and now I think the standard’s set that nothing less than a win is acceptable,” Brooks Laich said. “You can feel it in here, we’re starting to find a groove, starting to find our game, growing with confidence and players are figuring out their roles on the team and we feel really good with our game right now. If we stick with it, stay healthy we’re going to be a dangerous team.”
Capitals note: Right wing Eric Fehr suffered what the team would only describe as an upper body injury in the third period of Sunday’s game. He didn’t return to the contest.