NHL Game of The Week Preview: Capitals Continue Metro Road Trip With Sunday Afternoon Tilt vs. Rangers at MSG

WTOPPhoto: WTOP

The Washington Capitals wrap up their season series with the New York Rangers when the two teams clash in the Big Apple on Sunday afternoon. The Capitals can sweep the season set after winning 4-3 in overtime against New York at Capital One Arena on October 17, beating the Rangers 5-3 in Gotham City on November 24, and taking a wild 6-5 overtime affair from the Blueshirts in D.C. last week. NBC will have all of the coverage from Madison Square Garden beginning at 12:30 PM ET.

Capitals

The Capitals continue a three-game Metropolitan Division road trip on Sunday afternoon after getting a huge 3-1 win against the New York Islanders at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Friday night. They are 18-12-2 on the road this season but have just won three of their last nine games away from home, going 3-5-2 in that span.

With a win on Sunday afternoon, the Capitals can find themselves sitting all alone at the top of the Metropolitan Division for the first time since January 17. They have won three in a row, five of their last six, and are 10-4-1 since returning from their mandated bye-week. The Capitals had lost seven consecutive games (0-5-2) prior to the bye week. They have scored 16 goals in their past three games and have averaged 3.38 goals-per-game this season, the sixth-most in the NHL.

Captain Alex Ovechkin enters Sunday’s matinee riding an eight-game point streak, his second longest of the season (14 games). Over that stretch, the 33-year old forward has tallied seven goals and 11 points. He scored his NHL-leading 45th goal of the season in Friday’s win over the Islanders. Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 75 points this season. Defenseman John Carlson leads the team with 47 assists in 2018-19.

The Capitals’ 23-10-4 record against Eastern Conference opponents is good for the second-most points (50) against the East this season (Tampa Bay Lightning: 66 points in 39 games). Sunday’s game is the second of a four-game stretch against opponents within the division. In addition, the Capitals play six of their next seven against Metropolitan Division foes. They are 11-6-2 in games against their division this season.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 23-16-4 with a save percentage of .909, a goals-against average of 2.97, and two shutouts this season, will likely get the start against the Rangers. The 29-year old made 20 saves in the Capitals’ 3-1 win against the Islanders in his last start. In his career against the Rangers, Holtby is 11-9-1 with a save percentage of .919, a goals-against average of 2.44, and one shutout, including a 29-save performance in the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime win over New York on October 17.

Rangers

The Rangers’ 64 points this season are the fourth-fewest in the Eastern Conference and the second-fewest in the Metro only ahead of the New Jersey Devils’ 58. They have lost three consecutive games (0-1-2) and four of their past five (1-2-2). They conclude a three-game homestand against the Capitals on Sunday after dropping the first two to the Lightning 4-3 in overtime and the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2. The Rangers are 16-11-7 at Madison Square Garden this season.

The Rangers continued their rebuild at the trade deadline, sending forward Mats Zuccarello to the Dallas Stars for conditional picks; defenseman Adam McQuaid to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Julius Bergman, a fourth-round draft pick, and a seventh-round draft pick; and center Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick, forward Brendan Lemieux, and a conditional fourth-round pick. Lemieux, who has 10 goals, 12 points, and a +9 rating in 46 games this season, scored against the Canadiens on Friday.

Center Mika Zibanejad leads New York with 27 goals, 36 assists, and 63 points in 64 games this season, though his -9 rating is tied for the fourth-worst on the team. He posted a goal and five points during a three-game point-streak that ended against the Canadiens on Friday when he recorded a -3 rating. His 27-goals are tied with his career-high set in eight more games with the Rangers last season.

The Rangers’ average of 3.33 goals-against per game is the seventh-highest in the NHL while their average of 2.84 goals-per-game is the 10th-lowest in the league. Their penalty-killing efficiency of 77.5% is the sixth-worst in the NHL. New York’s average of 29.1 shots-per-game is the fourth-worst in the league while their average of 33.2 shots-against per game is the sixth-most. The Rangers’ faceoff-winning percentage of 47.1% is the third-worst in the NHL, only ahead of the Arizona Coyotes (46.9%) and Capitals (46%).

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is 17-17-9 with a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against average of 3.04 this season, will likely start against the Capitals on Sunday. In his career against the Capitals, the netminder, who turned 37 years old on Saturday, is 21-12-7 with a save percentage of .906, a goals-against average of 2.77, and four shutouts. He made 29 saves against the Capitals last Sunday.

Shavings

-Forward T.J. Oshie has three goals in a two-game goal-streak

-Since returning from their bye week February 1, the Capitals rank fifth in the NHL in wins (10) and fifth in points (21)

-Holtby is 17-9-2 against Eastern Conference opponents this season, with an NHL-best 2.50 goals against average and a .924 save percentage, (minimum: 25 games played)

A Look Back In Time

After Ovechkin and forward Justin Williams gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead entering the third period, the Rangers struck three times in a span of 7:15 to take the lead. Center Nicklas Backstrom buried a rebound that squeaked through Lundqvist’s legs to tie the game with 6.7 seconds left in regulation. After defenseman Nate Schmidt denied forward Rick Nash on the doorstep with his stick as he had a wide-open net, Ovechkin got the puck behind the net and went end-to-end, zipping past two Rangers defenseman to beat Lundqvist through the five-hole 1:25 into overtime for his 499th career NHL goal to win it for the Capitals, 4-3. Holtby made 23 saves in the victory.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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1 Response to NHL Game of The Week Preview: Capitals Continue Metro Road Trip With Sunday Afternoon Tilt vs. Rangers at MSG

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a must win given the fact the road ahead is not an easy one for the Capitals. And the Islanders face a much easier schedule down the stretch to the end of the season.

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