EditorsNote: rewords third graf to reflect late results
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored just 38 seconds into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 3-2 victory over the visiting New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Kuznetsov scored on a great individual effort, circling around a few New York players in the Rangers’ zone and then beating goalie Henrik Lundqvist on a bullet from the left side.
The victory moved the Capitals one step closer to a clinching a playoff spot. First-place Washington, which has five games left, holds a seven-point lead on both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals have won five in a row and nine of their past 10 games.
The Rangers were eliminated from the playoff picture when the Devils beat Carolina on Tuesday but played hard in the Wednesday contest.
Lundqvist came back after missing three games (sore back/neck) and turned in a solid performance with 30 saves. He repeatedly frustrated the Capitals in the third period.
Per NHL.com, this was the first time in his career that Lundqvist played in a game in which New York had been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby started after coach Barry Trotz told the media earlier that Philipp Grubauer, who has played most of the recent games, had some kind of a “tweak.”
That put Holtby back in net, and he played well, making 35 stops.
The Rangers kept him busy, firing 19 shots on goal in the first period and struck first.
Kevin Hayes scored a power-play goal from right in front with 7:18 left in the first period.
Moments after that, Lundqvist stopped Kuznetsov’s backhander on a penalty shot to keep the 1-0 lead.
However, Washington tied it with 33 seconds remaining in the period when Andre Burakovsky ripped a shot past Lundqvist after a Nicklas Backstrom feed.
Ryan Spooner then gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 9:25 left in the game before Lars Eller tied it for Washington. Eller’s goal came with 1:05 left and forced overtime.
Backstrom got the assist there, too, and he now has eight helpers in his past three games.
—Field Level Media