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PREVIEW: Red-hot Washington Capitals look to solve speedy New York Rangers

Mar 25, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) sits on the boards during a break in the first period of the game against the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) sits on the boards during a break in the first period of the game against the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have flustered the Washington Capitals this season.

The Capitals will try to do better on Sunday afternoon when the Rangers pay a visit.

Washington has been sitting at or near the top of the East Division standings for most of this season. The Capitals have won two in a row and nine of their last 10, including a 4-0 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils on Friday.

But New York, with its youth and especially speed, has kept the Washington offense quieter than it has been against other teams. The Capitals have lost three of their four meetings this season, scoring a total of six goals. The Rangers are the only team that has beaten Washington during this 10-game run.

Washington’s superstar captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice in Friday’s win and has recorded 10 goals in his last 10 contests.

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Ovechkin now leads the team with 17 goals — 723 for his career — and is a big reason for the recent run after he started a bit slowly.

“(Ovechkin) is a guy that takes a lot of pride in his game, a lot of pride in scoring goals and pride in his team being successful, and he knows that he’s a big part of that,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “Just the way things went down to start the year, it maybe didn’t get on track quite the way he wanted it at the beginning of the year, which probably fuels him even more.”

Nicklas Backstrom has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games while Evgeny Kuznetsov is finding his way with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his last nine. Plus, the Caps have received strong goaltending from their young tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek.

The Rangers are coming to Washington after a tough 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. New York had won three in a row before falling to the Flyers.

Mika Zibanejad scored the only Rangers’ goal and goalie Igor Shesterkin finished with 35 saves.

Philadelphia’s Samuel Morin scored his first NHL goal of the season with 4:27 remaining in the game, and that proved to be the winner.

“That was a hungry and desperate team obviously,” Zibanejad said. “They came out hot in the beginning. I thought they were throwing pucks on net, they were spreading us in our own zone … (and) we didn’t do a good enough job to get the pucks behind them and try to outwork them. They were good today, but we didn’t really come up to our level.”

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Zibanejad reached a personal milestone by playing in his 300th game with the Rangers. Ryan Strome’s assist moved his point streak to a career-high eight games (two goals, 11 assists).

The coaching situation remains in flux as acting coach Kris Knoblauch told the media he wasn’t sure if he’d be behind the bench in Washington. He is 4-2-0 while filling in for David Quinn, who is sidelined due to COVID-19 protocol.

–Field Level Media

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