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Caps Sweep Home-and-Home with Blueshirts

Prior to Wednesday night’s contest, the Rangers hadn’t played in a game where they were mathematically eliminated from qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since April 3rd of 2004 when they defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime by a score of 3-2. The New Jersey Devils’ win on Tuesday officially extinguished New York’s unrealistic hopes of reaching the 2018 playoffs. Similarly to 14 years ago, the Rangers would take on the Washington Capitals in the game following their elimination, and the tilt would need extra time and result in a 3-2 victory; however, on Wednesday night it was Washington who emerged victorious to sweep their home-and-home with the Blueshirts. In the process, they extended their win streak to five games, and improved to 9-1-0 in their last 10.

Alain Vigneault’s team came out with a much better first period at Capital One Arena after their disastrous opening frame at the world’s most famous arena on Monday. The Blueshirts opened the scoring on the power-play, as Kevin Hayes netted his career-high 22nd goal of the season with helpers from Brady Skjei and Jimmy Vesey. Vesey now boasts a three-game point streak, and has registered 8 points in his last 8 contests.

The Caps knotted the score with about 30 seconds left in the period, thanks to Andre Burakovsky’s 10th marker of the season. Henrik Lundqvist was beaten through the five-hole on the goal, and it was one he probably wants back. Aside from that, the king was exceptional in his return. Earlier in the period he beautifully flashed the leather to stop Evgeny Kuznetsov’s penalty-shot.

Following a scoreless middle period, the Boys in Blue reclaimed the lead halfway through the final frame. Ryan Spooner rifled a wrist-shot past Braden Holtby, who was also excellent in net. With Spooner’s goal, he has 15 points in 15 games on Broadway. Additionally, Lias Andersson assisted on the goal, which now gives him two points in his first 2 NHL games, and marked his first apple in the big leagues.

With 1:05 left in the tilt, Lars Eller tied the game for the Caps. The referees missed an obvious too many men on the ice penalty which should’ve been assessed to Washington and the Rangers got burned. Nicklas Backstrom found Eller in front of the Rangers’ net, and he redirected it past Lundqvist. Neal Pionk was great all night, but he was out-battled in front of the net by Eller, leading to the easy goal.

In overtime, Evgeny Kuznetsov avenged his missed penalty shot with the game-winning goal. With their victory on Wednesday, the Caps sit firmly atop the Metropolitan division, as they have a five-point cushion and a game in hand over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Rangers will be back in action on Friday night when they return to Madison Square Garden for an emotional matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:00 PM, MSG).

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