NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Monday, losing 6-3 to the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers (26-21-6) have lost three games in a row since going 8-2-1 from April 9-27. They have three games remaining.
"Just another level of disappointment, really," New York coach David Quinn said. "Just didn't get enough done this year. Had some great moments, some great stretches, but it just wasn't enough."
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin played one shift of 39 seconds before leaving his return game after missing four with a lower-body injury.
Washington coach Peter Laviolette said Ovechkin didn't make his injury worse by playing.
"He felt really good in the morning and went into the warmups and it was not quite as good," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "We were already shorthanded (17 skaters), so it's not like we were making a lineup decision. He got into the game and the first shift he just didn't feel comfortable, so at that point, again, we're not going to push or risk. ... If he felt anything that didn't feel right or normal, then he was going to come out."
Daniel Sprong scored his fifth goal in five games, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway each had a goal and an assist, and Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves to help Washington win for the first time in three games.
The Capitals (33-14-5), who have qualified for the playoffs, are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the MassMutual East Division. Washington has one game in hand.
"I think it is a gutsy win coming down the stretch," Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. "These are important points important games for us as a team, and I think there are a lot of guys battling extra hard. It wasn't the easiest of games the way it turned out. I liked the way we stuck with it and overcame some adversity at different points in the game."
Mika Zibanejad scored two goals, and Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves for New York.
Rangers forward Artemi Panarin didn't return for the third period because of a lower-body injury. He was thrown to the ice during a post-whistle altercation near the Capitals net at 7:40 of the second period that resulted in Washington forward Tom Wilson getting a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.
Panarin and Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich also received roughing minors, as did Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon.
"He's fortunate he is OK," Quinn said of Panarin.
Dowd gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 14:12 of the first period, and Conor Sheary scored 1:32 later to make it 2-0.
Zibanejad scored at 18:00 to make it 2-1. He tied the game 2-2 at 2:30 of the second period with a power-play goal, and Kaapo Kakko scored on a 2-on-1 with Alexis Lafreniere at 4:35 to give New York a 3-2 lead.
Video: WSH@NYR: Kakko buries the dish from Lafrenière
Hathaway tied it 3-3 at 18:30, scoring from the slot off the second rebound of a sequence that began with Dowd forcing a turnover behind the Rangers net.
"I thought it was a good forecheck by us, and that's something that we take a lot of pride in," Hathaway said. "Yeah, we got the puck to the net, but it was that relentless effort from [Carl Hagelin] and from 'Dowder' that got them on their heels. And then the puck was laying there for me."
Quinn said, "Kind of took a little bit of the wind out of our sails. Then they get the fourth one. We weren't able to hang in there and respond to that situation."
Sprong scored off a defensive-zone turnover by the Rangers to make it 4-3 at 4:37 of the third period. Nicklas Backstrom pushed it to 5-3 at 11:41, and Wilson scored an empty-net goal at 18:34 for the 6-3 final.
Video: WSH@NYR: Sprong capitalizes on turnover
"We have still three games to play and we have to go out there and it's going to be a good challenge every night," Zibanejad said. "We want to end on some sort of high note here and have something to hopefully build off of, try to end the season in some good way. We're just going to have to battle through this."
NOTES: The Capitals were one skater short of the maximum because Evgeny Kuznetsov (team discipline), T.J. Oshie (personal/family reasons) and Justin Schultz (lower body) were unavailable, and Ilya Samsonov (team discipline) was scratched. ... Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (upper body) missed his seventh straight game, left wing Chris Kreider (lower body) missed his third, and defenseman Ryan Lindgren (upper body) missed his second. ... Carlson had an assist, three shots on goal and three blocked shots playing a Capitals-high 25:00 after missing two games with a lower-body injury. ... Craig Anderson was the Capitals backup goalie with Samsonov scratched.
NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report
Video: Sprong, Backstrom lift Capitals to 6-3 victory