MADISON SQUARE GARDEN— After taking down the two hottest teams in the NHL in consecutive games it might be time for the Capitals to claim that crown.
Washington gave up the first goal for the fourth time in five games when it played the New York Rangers on Saturday. The Caps have won all five of them. Saturday they even trailed 2-0 and still rallied to win it 5-3.
Make it six of seven for Washington (13-7-3, 27 standings points), which remained in first place in the Metropolitan Division. Jimmy Vesey scored at 9:12 of the first period for the Rangers, who went up 2-0 on a goal by defenseman Brady Skjei at 9:39 of the second. The Caps weren’t at all fazed. This is a team that five times has overcome a multi-goal deficit to at least get a point in 23 games this season.
“If we’re down by one after one on the road, too, especially for our group, we only need a couple of chances to get back in the game,” forward Brett Connolly said. “We picked it up after the first and played a lot better in the second and the third. Better legs a little bit…We’re starting to get that feeling again through our room, starting to get there the way we had it towards the end of last year.”
Nic Dowd answered Skjei’s goal 31 seconds later and Jakub Vrana tied it with a beautiful backhand on a rush up ice at 16:27 of the third. Alex Ovechkin moved back into a tie for the NHL lead in goals with his 17th with just :30 seconds left in the second period. Connolly’s even-strength goal at 13:36 of the third period put the game out of reach.
Tom Wilson added an empty-net goal. It was his third goal in three consecutive games and he now has nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games since returning from a 16-game suspension.
But it’s Washington’s ability to shake off slow starts that’s allowed it to catch fire lately. The Caps trailed Colorado on Nov. 16 1-0 just 68 seconds into the game. The Caps were down 1-0 to Montreal at 9:20 if the first period last Monday. Detroit took a 1-0 lead at 8:46 of the first period on Friday and New York’s 2-0 lead looked like trouble on Saturday. Overall, Washington has been outscored 23-22 in the first period of games and is up 35-24 in the second period.
But Pheonix Copley, the backup to Braden Holtby, has done well to keep his team in games and has played well in four of his past five starts. And Holtby has a save percentage at .953 since Nov. 7 with three games missed due to injury. It’s been a good formula.
“I think it’s our goaltending. That allows it big time,” Dowd said. “Both of our goalies have played really well. Obviously, [Holtby] carries it. But when [Copley] has played he’s played really well. That always gives us a chance to come back.”
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