WASHINGTON -- Through the New York Rangers' first five games of the season, it seemed they simply could not do anything right.
They could not score, nor could they prevent opponents from doing so, problems exacerbated by adjusting to a new voice behind the bench and a weariness that comes from starting a season with nine games on the road.
But on Wednesday, the Rangers finally resembled the industrious team they are known to be, outworking the Washington Capitals in a 2-0 victory at Verizon Center.
Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves for his first shutout of the season. Including the final two games of a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoff series last season, Lundqvist has stopped 84 consecutive Capitals shots, shutting them out in three straight games.
"I felt like we came in here with a lot of confidence that we can beat them even though we've had a rough start," Lundqvist said.
New York's penalty kill set the tone Wednesday with early success. The Capitals' power play, which entered the game as the NHL's best (36.4 percent), was given 55 seconds of 5-on-3 time after Taylor Pyatt hooked Nicklas Backstrom with Anton Stralman already in the penalty box for hooking Troy Brouwer.
Dating to last season, the Capitals are one for their past nine 5-on-3 opportunities, including 0-for-2 with 2:21 of total time this season.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the 5-on-3 penalty kill invigorated his team.
"It's one thing that we had talked about prior to the game, was against that power play and how we were going to handle it," Vigneault said. "And to go down 5-on-3 and have those couple of nice saves from [Lundqvist], it sort of helped us get a little momentum after that and we took it from there."
The Rangers entered as the League's weakest puck-possession team according to advanced metrics, but they dominated the second period, outshooting the Capitals 21-6, keeping the home team hemmed in its zone, and holding Washington without a shot on goal for the final 9:12.
New York's hard work was rewarded at 12:05 when John Moore's shot from the high slot caught Washington goalie Braden Holtby flat-footed. Less than two minutes later, Ryan Callahan extended the lead to 2-0 on an impressive display of eye-hand coordination.
The Rangers' captain dug out the puck along the boards, throwing it behind the net to Derick Brassard. Callahan immediately cut to the front of the net, where he was able to bat the puck, sent his way by Brad Richards, out of the air and past Holtby for his third goal of the season.
"Our [defensive] zone, our neutral zone, everything was a lot more in sync," Richards said. "You could tell we were on the same page a lot more tonight."
The win snapped New York's three-game losing streak with three games left to go on its season-opening road trip, necessary due to the final phase of renovations at Madison Square Garden.
For the Capitals, the same issues that have been affecting them all season -- lackadaisical play in the neutral and defensive zones, especially -- did so again.
"We've got to play better in our own end," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Obviously we want to score and we want to get down the ice, but until we cross the blue line, we can't."
The Capitals have lost three of four during a season-long five-game homestand. Washington, which started last season 1-5-1, is 2-5-0.
"I don't think it's what we expected to start, but it's where we are," Oates said. "We've got to figure out a way to dig ourselves out."
|Marc Staal Roughing against Troy Brouwer|
|Troy Brouwer Roughing against Marc Staal|
|Anton Stralman Hooking against Troy Brouwer|
|Taylor Pyatt Hooking against Nicklas Backstrom|
|Tom Wilson Fighting against Justin Falk|
|Justin Falk Fighting against Tom Wilson|
|Eric Fehr Hi-sticking against Dominic Moore|
|Anton Stralman Holding against Brooks Laich|
|Alex Ovechkin Slashing against Derek Stepan|
|Tom Wilson Interference against Benoit Pouliot|
|Brad Richards Holding against Brooks Laich|