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Rangers face Capitals in search of third straight win

by Jon Lane

RANGERS (18-18-2) at CAPITALS (19-14-4)


Last 10: New York 4-4-2; Washington 5-3-2

Season series: The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals will play the third of four games after splitting the first two, with the road team winning each game. Steve Oleksy, Jason Chimera and Mikhail Grabovski scored second-period goals in the Capitals' 4-1 win against the Rangers in the teams' last game Dec. 8 in New York.

Big story: The Capitals are in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 42 points, 13 behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and four ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and Rangers. Washington will have to protect home ice and its place in the standings against a Rangers team that finished a franchise-record nine-game homestand with a flourish.

In a 2-1 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, New York outshot Toronto 43-26. The Rangers outshot the Maple Leafs 22-5 in the second period, marking their season high for shots in one period.

"The record isn't what we wanted going into it, but we've found our game here in the last two games," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who played 29:31 in helping the Rangers end the homestand 3-4-2. "If there's anything we got out of it … we've proven to ourselves what it takes, and we have to be willing to do that to succeed."

Team Scope:

Rangers: New York received excellent goaltending Monday from backup Cam Talbot (25 saves), who earned his second win in two nights. J.T. Miller broke a scoreless tie in the third, and the Rangers received shootout goals from Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan for their second straight victory and third in the past five games.

"There's more desperation in our game, there's more emotion, more desperation about winning," said center Derick Brassard. "We're not playing any differently, Xs and Os, just with more emotion."

Capitals: Washington could not hold on to a two-goal lead for the second straight game in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday at Verizon Center; they lost 5-4 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday after twice surrendering two-goal leads.

After first-period goals from Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals had a total of eight shots on goal in the second and third periods in the loss to Anaheim.

"We have 20 more minutes to go to play," Nicklas Backstrom said. "It was just a couple of mistakes that cost us the win. Overall, I thought we played all right, but it's hard to say that you played all right when you lose, that's for sure. We have to find a way to win the next one."

Who's hot: Since his call-up from the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford in late October, Talbot has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his 10 starts, and is 8-2-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Forward Benoit Pouliot's assist Monday extended his point streak to a season-high five games. … Grabovski has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his past 10 games. Washington's power play has converted at least once in eight of 10 December games and is 12-for-37 (32.4 percent) with the man advantage this month.

Injury report: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) skated hard Monday and could be nearing a return. Forward Ryan Callahan (sprained left MCL) remains on injured reserve. … Capitals center Michael Latta (lower body) and defenseman Jack Hillen (lower body) are on IR.


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