Both the Capitals and the New York Rangers were playing their third game in less than 72 hours on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena, and it was basically two games in one. The first 30 minutes was scoreless while the two sides combined for nine goals in the back half of the contest. Washington scored the first four of those nine goals, before yielding four in the third and then holding on for a 5-4 victory over the Rangers.
Sunday's win enabled the Caps to sweep three games in about 68 hours and to finish a six-game homestand with a sparkling 5-1-0 record. Washington has won 14 of its last 16 games and is now 17-3-1 in its last 21 games, a stretch that represents precisely three-eighths (37.5 percent) of the season.
Video: Wilson, Ovechkin score goals in win
"I don't think it was a perfect third period for us tonight," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette. "We were up in front and gave up a couple early [in the third], and that kind of put them in the game. From there, you just keep playing and keep pushing, but they chip in another one and they get a power-play goal. We'll talk about it, and try to get better from it."
Both teams survived a couple of goalmouth scrambles in a scoreless first period - and a Dmitry Orlov crease sweep on one of them ended up looming larger later on in the game - and the Caps weren't able to convert on the lone power play opportunity of the opening frame and another early in the second. New York got the game's next three power play opportunities - all in the second period - but the Caps kept the Rangers' recently torrid power play off the board while Washington wove a trio of even-strength strikes in between those three penalty-killing missions in the middle period.
Video: NYR@WSH: Wilson cleans up rebound for opening goal
Just after the midpoint of the middle period, the dam broke and the goals started coming. Tom Wilson blocked a Ryan Lindgren shot at the Washington line, and Jakub Vrana tore off into New York ice with the loose puck. Keith Kinkaid made the stop on Vrana's shot, but Wilson was right there to follow up, beating the Blueshirts' goalie with a backhander, giving the Capitals a 1-0 lead at 10:43 of the second.
Less than two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin continued his recent heater with his 11th goal in as many games. As the late Jerry Reed once sang, "When you're hot, you're hot." Ovechkin proved it by throwing a no angle shot to the net from the very bottom of the left circle. The puck clicked off the stick of Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and in for a 2-0 Washington lead at 12:29.
Video: NYR@WSH: Ovechkin scores goal from sharp angle
Seconds after the Ovechkin goal, Wilson was sent off for tripping. He stepped out of the box two minutes later and nearly had a breakaway opportunity, only to be denied on a strong backcheck from New York's Jacob Trouba. The Caps came right back into New York ice, and after Kinkaid stopped Nicklas Backstrom's shot from the top of the left circle, Wilson swatted the rebound home with another backhander, this one out of midair. Wilson's second goal of the game pushed the Caps' lead to 3-0 at 15:07.
Video: NYR@WSH: Wilson bags his second of game
Washington limited the Rangers to 11 shots on net and few scoring chances in the game's first 40 minutes, and the Caps increased their lead to 4-0 early in the third when the fourth line turned in a strong shift in the offensive zone. Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin combined to set up Evgeny Kuznetsov in front after the latter hopped over the boards at 5:10 of the third.
New York began chipping away, cutting the Caps' lead in half on a pair of Colin Blackwell goals that came just 2:59 apart leading up to the midpoint of the third.
Just over two minutes after Blackwell's second goal, T.J. Oshie got one back for the Caps, making it 5-2 with a deft deflection of Justin Schultz's right point shot at 11:46. Oshie's goal - and his third point of the afternoon - proved to be the game-winner.
Alexis Lafreniere made it 5-3 when he converted a juicy rebound off the pad of Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov at 12:18, and Chris Kreider scored on a New York power play at 16:08 to make it a one-goal game once again. From there, the Caps battened down the hatches and secured the two points.
Video: Postgame | Oshie and Wilson
"I just didn't think we were sharp in that second period," says Rangers coach David Quinn. "We had some power plays that we didn't get a lot from, and then I just thought our inability to shoot pucks and get pucks on net.
"I thought there were chances where we might have been able to sustain some zone time and maybe create some offense, but I just thought we were looking for the perfect play. You do that against that team, and you're going to be spending less time in the offensive zone. I thought that was a big problem in the second period."