Short-handed Caps pull off big win in New York

Tom Wilsoin

The Caps were without T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and lost Alex Ovechkin after one shift, but still pulled off the 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday.

The win pulls Washington back into a first place tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins and gives them a three-point and four-point cushion over the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, respectively, in the East Division with just four games to go.

Here is how the win happened.

A two-goal lead

The Caps entered the game without Oshie and Kuznetsov, then lost Alex Ovechkin after one shift and 39 seconds. How do you win with so much firepower missing? Scoring first helps.

If Washington had to chase this game for most of the night, that would have been a steep hill to climb. Instead, Nic Dowd and Conor Sheary each scored in a 92-second span in the first period to spot the Caps to a 2-0 lead. 

They would need it, too, as the Rangers rallied to take the lead in the second period.

The fourth line

Someone had to step up with many of the top offensive players out and the fourth line answered the call. It was easily the Caps' best line of the night and contributed two goals in the winning effort.

Dowd scored the game's first goal, firing a wrist shot on the odd-man rush that fooled goalie Igor Shesterkin. It looked like Shesterkin was expecting a high shot, but Dowd instead kept it low and beat him 5-hole.

In the second period trailing 3-2, Garnet Hathaway tied the game at 3. Dowd stole the puck down low and the fourth line continued battling in front of the net until Hathaway was finally able to knock it through.


Sprong's go-ahead goal

Hathaway's goal late in the second period made it anyone's game in the third and the Caps struck first. Despite all the offense they were missing, Daniel Sprong is a player who has brought plenty of offense whenever he has been added to the lineup and he scored the game-winner on Monday as he pounced on a defensive-zone turnover.

Brendan Smith had the puck and skated backwards in the defensive zone with Nicklas Backstrom in his face. He tried a pass across the middle, but flubbed it, leaving it on the platter for Sprong. Sprong took it, made one move to get past the sprawling Shesterkin, then delivered it into the net to make it 4-3.

Backstrom would add an insurance tally and Tom Wilson would score an empty-netter to finish off the game and an unexpected win given the circumstances.