WASHINGTON - Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr kept shooting until he scored a goal that counted.
Fehr had an apparent goal overturned by video replay in the second period. But he scored his sixth of the season with 5:09 remaining in regulation to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers on Friday night in their final home game of 2013.
"Last year by far he was our most versatile player," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Fehr, who has five points in his past six games. "He is kind of an opportunist player. The goal tonight, maybe he caught [Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot] off-guard, and he almost had one in the second on the [power play]."
With the teams skating 4-on-4, Fehr beat Talbot, making his third consecutive start in place of Henrik Lundqvist, with an innocent-looking wrist shot from just inside the right circle less than 30 seconds after Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi rang a shot off the post. The go-ahead goal came on the last of Fehr's six shots on goal.
"It was just a quick release and it just beat me," Talbot said. "It's [a save] that I've got to make, especially in a situation like that where it's a tie game with five minutes to go and we're pressing for the win. We had just hit the post right before that and that kind of took the wind out of our sails there and that's one I need to have back."
Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom also scored for Washington (20-14-4), and rookie Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves to improve to 5-1-1 since being recalled on Nov. 30.
"It's huge," Grubauer said. "Every win is, because I haven't played many games, so every win is a great feeling for me."
Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin scored for New York (18-19-2), which had its two-game winning streak snapped in the opener of a five-game road trip.
With the win, the second-place Capitals extended their lead over the fifth-place Rangers to six points in the Metropolitan Division.
Green's third goal of the season gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 6:55 of the opening period. With Rangers forward Rick Nash off for tripping Green, Martin Erat took a feed from Green near the right half-wall. Erat then drove towards the goal line, drawing the Rangers' penalty-killers to him, before sending a backhanded pass back to center point, where an unguarded Green wound up and fired a low slap shot that beat Talbot to the glove side.
"Great play, period," Green said of Erat's pass. "He dragged his guy down and had him chase him down the wall and it left a lot of room for me to shoot the puck."
The Rangers tied the game 1:37 into the second period when Pouliot deflected Brad Richards' point shot past Grubauer for a power-play goal. It was Pouliot's sixth goal of the season and extended his point-scoring streak to a career-high six games.
Washington thought it had retaken the lead with 9:50 remaining in the middle period when the officials originally ruled that Fehr's shot from the slot deflected off the post and trickled past Talbot during a power play, But after video review, the call was overturned when it was determined that the puck never crossed the goal line.
The Capitals did grab a 2-1 lead before the period ended when Backstrom's wrist shot from the right circle beat Talbot at 18:55 for his 10th goal of the season. The goal came on a counterattack after Grubauer thwarted a New York flurry with three saves in 11 seconds.
"[Grubauer] always seems like he's relaxed and calm," Green said. "He's played outstanding and you can't give him enough credit. He played great tonight."
With about 90 seconds with which to work on the power play entering the third period, the Capitals were in position to take control of the game. Instead, Hagelin tied the game at 2-2 on a shorthanded breakaway 17 seconds after the opening faceoff. He burst down the middle of the ice after collecting a stretch pass from Ryan McDonagh and slipped a backhander through Grubauer's legs.
The Rangers played most of the game without defenseman Anton Stralman, who left after four shifts with an undisclosed injury. New York is already without top-four defenseman Marc Staal, who could return from a concussion as early as Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the Rangers' AHL call-ups, Dylan McIlrath, is out with a knee injury that's scheduled to be reevaluated next week.
"You go from six to five defenseman, and then the top three have to log a tremendous amount of minutes, so that might make it a little bit challenging towards the end of the game as far as defending and attacking, but that's not an excuse," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Those are things that happen. I thought for the most part we found a way to compete real hard and just before they scored that goal, we hit the post and instead of going post in, it goes post out."
The Capitals play their last two games of 2013 when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday and the Ottawa Senators on Monday. The Rangers continue their road trip on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning before facing the Florida Panthers on New Year's Eve.