Capitals-Rangers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 23, 2013
With goalie Braden Holtby playing well and the offense starting to find its groove, the Washington Capitals hope they've put their early season struggles behind them. The Capitals, though, have yet to put it all together against the New York Rangers. Washington will try to continue its late-season push and beat the Rangers for the first time in three meetings on Sunday night. The Capitals (14-16-1) seek their third straight win and fifth in seven games following a productive two days in Winnipeg that pushed them ahead of Tampa Bay into third place in the Southeast Division. Holtby picked up a 20-save shutout in a 4-0 win over the Jets on Thursday and had 30 more in a 6-1 victory in Winnipeg the following evening. He has a 3-1-0 record with two shutouts and an 0.75 goals-against average in his last four road contests. "We're getting in the groove," Holtby said. "You can feel it in the dressing room. the guys are confident and guys are ready to make a push here. It's a good feeling and that's what we've been waiting for all year.'' Holtby, however, looks to reverse his recent luck against the Rangers. He's lost three straight starts in this series - including a 2-1 defeat in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals - and was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals in a 4-1 loss on March 10. This time, Holtby faces a struggling New York offense that has posted one or no goals in five of its last six games. The Rangers (15-13-2), who are fighting for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, fell to 2-4-0 in their last six following a 3-1 loss to Southeast Division-worst Florida on Thursday. New York, which ranks near the bottom of the NHL at 2.27 goals per game, couldn't cash in on their highest regular-season shot total (45) in more than two years. "We'd be concerned if we weren't getting the chances,'' captain Ryan Callahan said. "We had 40-something shots. You get those chances on a nightly basis, you're going to get more than one goal easily.'' While the Rangers haven't been able to convert on any of their 12 power-play opportunities over the last six games, they have scored with the man advantage in both meetings against the Capitals. Derek Stepan, who has scored in both games in the series, provided the go-ahead power-play tally in the third period of a 2-1 home win on Feb. 17. He's also earned a point in four of the last five meetings, including last year's playoffs. Rick Nash, the team's points leader (25), looks to extend his seven-game points streak (5 goals, 8 assists) against the Capitals. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has lost five of seven starts despite a 2.29 GAA, has won three straight home starts with a 1.33 GAA in this series - including two in last season's conference semifinals. The Capitals hope to break through against last season's Vezina Trophy winner after totaling 16 in its last four games after being held to seven in its previous five. Alex Ovechkin enters this contest on a tear with six goals and three assists over his last six games. He also leads the team with 10 power-play goals, and has scored with the man advantage in each of the last three contests. Troy Brouwer has three goals and two assists in his last four games, while Marcus Johansson has added three and four, respectively, in his last five.
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