Caps beat Rangers in overtime after thrilling, physical rivalry game

WASHINGTON — The New York Rangers forced overtime with just 31 seconds left in regulation, but the Capitals walked away with the 6-5 win Sunday thanks to an overtime winner from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The win marks a triumphant return home for the Caps after a season-long road trip.

Here are six reasons Washington won.

Two quick two-goal rallies

The game did not get off to a great start with Chris Kreider scoring 21 seconds into the game. The Caps took control later in the first period with a good 21-second stretch of their own. Nicklas Backstrom put Washington tied the game with less than two minutes remaining and just 21 seconds later Kempny scored to make it 2-1. From taking a 1-0 deficit into the locker room to going up 2-1 was a pretty dramatic momentum shift.

The Caps carried a 3-2 lead into the third period but again gave up a goal exactly 21 seconds into the period as Jimmy Vesey recorded the game-tying tally. Again, however, the Caps rallied with two quick goals. Nic Dowd restored the lead about two minutes after Vesey scored and Backstrom scored his second of the game just 36 seconds later to make it 5-3.

A pretty passing play and a little bit of luck

The Caps first got on the board T.J. Oshie dropped a pass back to John Carlson who wound up for the big slap shot…then hit Backstrom with a slap pass. The fake shot completely fooled the Rangers, especially Henrik Lundqvist who was slow to react leaving an empty net for Backstrom to shoot at. Despite having an empty-net, it looked like Backstrom was actually off target on his shot. He shot the puck right to Lundqvist, but it bounced off the Rangers netminder and in.

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov take over

For the first three minutes of overtime, it felt like the Caps never really had the puck at all. The Rangers just kept coming, but could not close the deal. Then Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov took over and dominated New York’s defense until finally, they got the game-winner past Lundqvist. The puck was trickling past Lundqvist when both players lunged at it with their sticks. The goal was credited to Kuznetsov, but it seemed unclear which one of them actually got to it first. Either way, it was a big win for Washington.

A tough day for Henrik Lundqvist

Everyone has an off day from time to time and Lundqvist certainly had one on Sunday. He’s one of the top netminders in the NHL, but he was not at his best in Washington.

Backstrom’s goal was unlucky, but Kempny’s goal just 21 seconds later is one Lundqvist would love to have back. Kempny had an open lane from the high slot and he shot it through the gaping 5-hole of Lundqvist who completely misjudged the shot. He dropped to one knee but kept his left leg extended leaving open the 5-hole. He tried to get his blocker down to compensate, but the puck was already past him by that point.

When Lundqvist got beat by Tom Wilson on the power play, he showed his frustration by turning around and breaking his stick over the crossbar.

Nic Dowd’s goal came as the puck bounced off the shin of Travis Boyd and deflected to the slot where Dowd was all alone. Backstrom then got a second goal as three Rangers converged on Oshie, but lost track of Backstrom who came away with the puck.

The Rangers played bad defense, had bad puck luck in the defensive zone and Lundqvist let in at least one softie. He did not play badly and came up with a few good saves in overtime before Washington got the win, but it was Just a frustrating game overall for King Henrik.

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom led the way with two goals for the Caps including the game-winner. Sunday was Backstrom’s first two-goal game since he scored a hat trick on Nov. 30 against the New Jersey Devils. This is the 24th multi-goal game of his career.

The trade deadline

Let’s call a spade a spade here. The Rangers are sellers and played like a team that is not sure what its roster will look like tomorrow after the NHL’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Mats Zuccarello was traded to Dallas on Saturday while Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid were scratched as potential trade chips. Less than a minute after Wilson gave Washington the 3-1 lead, the Rangers took an unnecessary too-many-men penalty that could have been the knockout punch had the Caps been able to take advantage.

On the other side, Washington showed off their new additions with Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen. The fourth line looked very dangerous with Hagelin on it and Jensen was very good in his Capitals debut.

The Rangers showed a lot of spunk in this one and dominated much of overtime, but were ultimately killed by their earlier mistakes.