WASHINGTON — The Capitals needed a win, badly.
Looking to snap their six-game losing streak, they came out aggressive for Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers and fought their way to a 6-3 victory. T.J. Oshie scored twice and recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick in what marked his 500th game with the franchise to lead the Capitals to their first win in two weeks.
Oshie set the tone for Washington early, scoring a tip-in goal just over four minutes to convert the Capitals’ first power play chance before dropping the gloves to fight Rangers center Barclay Goodrow. He didn’t relent from there, scoring again off the rush in the second period to give the home team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
"We’ve been working pretty hard lately on getting our game right, on everyone kind of pulling for each other, playing together, without the puck mostly," Oshie said after the game. "We’ve been working real hard regardless of if we’ve been winning or losing, but working the right way and working for each other. And tonight was no different. You need your big players to step up. I get paid a lot of money to put offense up on the board and haven’t been doing it as of late, so felt good to get a couple up there."
After ceding the crease to Charlie Lindgren on Thursday night, Darcy Kuemper returned in net for the Capitals and put on a show. Despite facing one of the league’s top netminder in Igor Shesterkin, Kuemper earned the win with 23 saves on 26 chances. Shesterkin played well in his own right, but breakdowns by the Rangers’ blue line put him in poor spots all afternoon before he was pulled at the start of the third.
Some of Kuemper’s best efforts came on special teams. The physical contest allowed the referees’ whistles to get plenty of work in, tasking him with keeping the net clean in 5-on-3, 5-on-4 and 4-on-4 situations. The only goal New York scored against him with a man advantage was on a 5-on-3 in the third created by a roughing call against Wilson that nobody wearing red in the building was happy about.
The Capitals did most of their damage in the second, scoring four goals in a period for the first time since Jan. 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Joining Oshie on the scoresheet were Tom Wilson (his third in four games), Sonny Milano (nabbing Oshie the assist he needed for the Gordie Howe hat trick) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (for one of his four points on the day).
Washington has played many high-intensity contests against the Rangers over the years and Saturday’s game was no different. The Capitals also proved they have New York’s number after beating their Metropolitan Division rivals 4-0 in their first meeting Dec. 27. The two teams will meet again two more times down the stretch.
"I feel like there is always emotions against this team and that’s a big rivalry," Kuznetsov said. "You see lots of fans came to their side and it’s one o’clock, lots of kids there so it’s always big games and I feel like for us that was a big game."
With the win, the Capitals improved to 29-26-6 with 64 points toward the standings. That locked them into a tie with the Sabres heading into Sunday’s contest in Buffalo.