NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers didn't need to have the puck a lot or generate sustained pressure in the offensive zone when they did have it to get a win against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Being opportunistic was good enough.
Five different players scored for the Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves for a 5-2 victory against the Capitals that wasn't pretty, but was effective.
New York (8-2-2) improved to 5-0-2 in its past seven games and took over sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division with 18 points. Washington (8-3-0) had its two-game winning streak end.
"We didn't get much, but the stuff we did get we made them pay and put it in the back of the net," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "That's deflating to a team that had the puck so much. We've been on the other side of that and it can get frustrating. Not the way we like to play, but we found a way to do it."
The Rangers found a way despite having only 21 shots on goal, 37 total shot attempts and winning 21 of 52 faceoffs. Lundqvist was a big reason why.
Washington had 34 shots on goal and 67 shot attempts, but couldn't do enough to overcome Lundqvist's brilliance or a rare off night from their goalie, Braden Holtby. The Capitals were also burned by their own miscues that led to goals.
Lundqvist improved to 6-2-2 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
"He's certainly a big reason why we have been winning a lot of games," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes, Derick Brassard and Kevin Klein each had a goal and an assist for New York. Jarret Stoll also scored, and Viktor Stalberg, Marc Staal and Keith Yandle had assists.
Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson scored for Washington. Holtby made 16 saves.
Ovechkin's goal was the 481st of his career. He needs two more to tie Sergei Fedorov for the most goals scored by a Russian player in the NHL.
"We talk about playing the right way, and at points in the game we didn't play the right way and we got burned by it," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "At the same time, they didn't play the right way and they didn't get burned by it. Holtby has been the eraser for us many nights when we haven't been as good and Lundqvist is the eraser for them when they're not as good as they can be. That's why goaltending is such a big part of the game. They can erase a lot of mistakes."
The Rangers had a 4-2 lead after two periods while being credited with 11 shots on goal, including two in the second period, when they scored two goals.
Brassard was never credited with a shot on goal despite scoring at 6:59 of the second to make it 4-1; according to the off-ice officials, the goal was ruled an own goal.
It was an important goal because it gave New York a three-goal cushion. Johansson cut the lead to two with 1:07 remaining in the second period, but Lundqvist made 10 saves before Stoll scored at 10:53 of the third to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.
"Stoll's goal in the third period was kind of a reliever for our team," Brassard said. "We know we can play a little bit better, but I think we have to give them credit. They played really well, were moving the puck fast. We have to come out with better execution."
Each New York goal in the second period was scored off of Washington turnovers.
The first came off of a turnover in the offensive zone by Ovechkin that led to a 4-on-2 rush finished by Klein's hard stick-side shot past Holtby at 1:53.
Brassard scored after Mats Zuccarello forced Johansson to give up the puck on the left-wing half wall in Washington's zone. Brassard was attempting a diagonal pass to Rick Nash, but the puck went in off of Johansson, who was diving back to defend the play after the turnover.
"The second period, we have the puck the whole period, and we lose that period 2-1," Trotz said. "They got the timely save and the timely goal. We didn't get the timely save and the timely goal."
The Rangers two goals in the first period were a result of misplays or misreads by Washington's top defense pair of John Carlson and Brooks Orpik.
Orpik had a giveaway behind the Capitals' net that led to Lindberg's goal off of a rebound. Carlson was too aggressive in defending the Rangers' breakout and didn't realize Hayes was behind him. Hayes got the puck and put a shot off of Holtby's glove and in at 17:46.
"They're good pros, they're going to be fine," Trotz said of Carlson and Orpik. "It's just one of those nights you're going to have and you move forward."
The Rangers almost had one of those nights too, but Lundqvist's excellence, a couple of breaks and being opportunistic was enough for them to move forward with two points and up the standings into first place.
"They had the puck pretty much the whole game, but we just capitalized on our chances," Brassard said. "It wasn't pretty.