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Capitals score six unanswered goals, defeat Rangers

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- As much as the Washington Capitals don't want to get used to playing from behind, they won't hide the fact that the past two games have given them the confidence to know they're never out of a game even when trying to climb out of a hole.

The Capitals rallied from a multiple-goal deficit for the second straight game to win their fifth in a row Sunday. They scored six unanswered goals after the first period, including four in the second, to defeat the New York Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden.

It was similar to the Capitals' 5-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, when they fell behind 3-0 but scored five unanswered goals, including four in the third period, to win the game.

Washington (24-6-2) extended its lead on the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division to eight points. The Capitals are 12-1-1 in their past 14 games; the Rangers are 3-9-2 in their past 14.

"We know we have a team that when playing our game can score a lot of goals," said Capitals forward Justin Williams, who scored two goals to give him 10 this season. "We're obviously not going to score seven every night, but we have the ability to come back on anybody, we're not scared of anybody. We feel we're one of the better teams in the League and we're going to try to prove it throughout the year."

Williams had an assist and was one of three Washington forwards to finish with three points Sunday. Marcus Johansson had a goal and two assists and Nicklas Backstrom had three assists.

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov had two points on a goal and an assist. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov had two assists.

Washington also got goals from forwards T.J. Oshie, Alex Ovechkin and Jason Chimera. Oshie and Ovechkin scored on the power play; Chimera scored shorthanded.

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 33 saves, including 21 after he gave up three goals on 15 shots in the first period.

"[Holtby] had a shaky first and I said to him, 'You're real close to being yanked,'" Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "But what I loved about it is I let him stay in there, and great goalies find ways to get their game back together. He did, and I thought he was really solid after the first. I have a lot of faith in him. When he's not on he'll probably go a little longer because he seems to sort things out, and I allow him to sort things out. He pulled it together and I thought he was real strong. I also think our team played some urgency and passion."

Trotz thought the Capitals were lethargic in the first period, when the Rangers rallied from a 1-0 deficit on Williams' first goal to score three goals in a span of 4:21 to take a 3-1 lead. J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider and Dan Boyle scored for New York (19-12-4).

"There wasn't a lot of passion in our game," Trotz said. "You saw in the second period, we came and played with some passion. I just said, 'Hey, we're turning the puck over a whole bunch of times, you're not really battling, so you guys just fix it and let's go after these guys.' They did."

The Rangers had no response. It's becoming a common theme that is testing their resolve.

"Right now it's a test for us mentally to turn this around," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled after allowing five goals on 24 shots through two periods. "We are trying to do the right thing out there. Working hard. Trying to talk about things. It's definitely challenging right now to get everything going in the right direction."

The Capitals got started in the right direction early in the second period, when Johansson rang a shot off the crossbar at 18 seconds.

"That gave us momentum," Ovechkin said, "and [Kuznetsov] scored a huge goal for us, the second one."

Kuznetsov scored at 5:25 to make it 3-2. Oshie tied it 96 seconds later, capitalizing off of a perfect bank pass from Backstrom off of the corner boards. Johansson set up Ovechkin and Williams for their power-play goals to make it 5-3.

Lundqvist has given up four or more goals in four of his past five starts.

"I don't really have a good explanation," Lundqvist said of his recent play. "I have to look at my own game. I can't look at the team game. I have to be better. I know that. We all know that."

Lundqvist's replacement, Magnus Hellberg, allowed goals on the first two shots he faced. Chimera scored his shorthanded goal at 2:26 and Johansson capped the scoring at 4:36.

"It was time to make a change," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's that simple."

The Rangers need to change a lot about their game if they're going to pull out of this prolonged slump. Their next chance comes Tuesday, when they play at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

"There's no doubt in my mind the answer is in that dressing room," Vigneault said. "Right now, as a group, we're all a little bit off. We will work together and get back at it."

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