Capitals 6, Rangers 5

As if the Washington Capitals needed any more help while

streaking through the NHL schedule, when they go for win No. 13 in

a row against Atlanta, they won’t even have to face Ilya

Kovalchuk.

On the night Kovalchuk was dealt from the Thrashers to the New

Jersey Devils, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the rest of

NHL-leading Capitals pulled out a 6-5 back-and-forth win over the

New York Rangers on Thursday.

Backstrom’s third-period, power-play goal – his fifth point of

the night – snapped a tie and put the Capitals ahead for good.

Washington will return home on Friday night to face Southeast

Division-rival Atlanta, a playoff-hopeful club that suddenly is

without the biggest star in franchise history.

“It’s still another game to win,” said Mike Knuble, who had a

goal and an assist while on a line with Ovechkin and Backstrom.

“They might be a little bit out of sorts with a big deal

happening.”

Everything seems to be clicking just fine for the Capitals, who

haven’t lost since Jan. 12 at Tampa Bay and have outscored

opponents 57-27 in the franchise-record streak.

Backstrom already had four assists when he got to a loose puck

near the left circle and snapped in his 24th goal to make it 6-5 at

5:34 of the third. Washington scored three goals on the power play

to offset a season-high four man-advantage goals by the

Rangers.

Ovechkin had two goals and an assist to reach 500 NHL points. He

is the fifth player to achieve the milestone in five seasons, doing

it in only 373 games.

“We’re pretty confident. There is a good atmosphere in the

locker room,” Ovechkin said. “This team is playing good right now

and we feel good about ourselves. If I don’t play well, a different

guy steps up. We play for each other.”

Boyd Gordon and defenseman Tom Poti added goals for the

Capitals. It was Backstrom’s second five-point game this

season.

New York returned home from a 1-2 Western trip, but couldn’t

turn its best offensive output in eight games into a win. Vinny

Prospal had two goals, and newly acquired forward Olli Jokinen,

Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan also put pucks past Jose

Theodore. The Rangers lost in regulation for the seventh time in

eight games and have slipped below the postseason cutoff in the

Eastern Conference.

“It’s easy to start questioning your game when you let in six

goals, but I don’t think I played that bad,” goalie Henrik

Lundqvist said. “It was just a really tough game. They find ways

to create big scoring chances. They don’t shoot that much, but they

find openings.”

Leading scorer Marian Gaborik had two assists, as did Jokinen

and Prospal for New York. But Jokinen was also called for three

penalties, including a hooking call against Poti that led to

Backstrom’s winner.

“It’s disappointing,” Jokinen said. “We’ve got to find a way

to stay out of the penalty box. That was the difference. Our power

play was good. We scored five goals at home. We should be able to

win.

“Everybody knows where we’re at in the standings. We’ve got to

treat every game like a playoff game.”

The Capitals (39-12-6), who lead the NHL in scoring, erased

deficits of 1-0, 2-1, and 5-3. They held on with the help of three

power plays in the final 11 minutes.

“Even though they took a lead, we knew we would score,”

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Lundqvist didn’t look as

sharp as he has against us in the past.”

The Rangers carried play in the first period and took a 1-0 lead

at 8:58 when Callahan tipped in a shot by Jokinen, snapping New

York’s 0 for 25 power-play slump over seven games. Gordon tied it

with 3:20 left in the frame, despite Washington being outshot 15-5

at the time.

Prospal got that one back just 10 seconds later, and New York

finished the period with a 2-1 lead and an 18-6 shots

advantage.

The tide turned in the second as Washington quickly caught up in

shots and on the scoreboard. Knuble’s 20th goal made it 2-2 at

4:41, and Ovechkin’s power-play tally at 7:16 gave the Capitals

their first lead.

Jokinen, in his second game since being acquired from Calgary on

Monday, scored his 12th of the season and first with the Rangers to

make it 3-3 at 12:19. Prospal put New York back on top 40 seconds

later.

Dubinsky’s power-play goal with 1:12 left in the second made it

5-3 and had Madison Square Garden rocking.

It didn’t last long as Ovechkin quieted the crowd by netting his

NHL-leading 38th, scoring a one-handed goal with only 8.5 seconds

left in the middle frame.

Former Rangers defenseman Poti tied it 5-5 just 59 seconds into

the third, 36 seconds after New York rookie Michael Del Zotto was

sent off for high-sticking.

NOTES: Gaborik scored five of New York’s six goals in the

three-game road trip. … The Capitals allowed as many as three

goals for only the fourth time in their streak. … Washington was

3 for 9 on the power play. New York, which finished with a 38-32

edge in shots, was 4 for 6.