WASHINGTON – Capitals players and coach Peter Laviolette sounded as if they'd lost after holding on to beat the New York Rangers 5-4 Sunday.
That's a good sign for the first-place team in the East Division after tying the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the NHL.
Washington has won 10 of 11 games to move two points up on the second-place New York Islanders and looks primed for another deep playoff run. Instead of celebrating two goals by Tom Wilson, the 724th of Alex Ovechkin's career or three points from T.J. Oshie, the Capitals lamented a sloppy third period that turned a blowout into a nail-biter.
This veteran team has grown to appreciate the value of piling up points and learning lessons along the way, and this game serves as another teachable moment after almost letting what should have been an easy victory slip away.
“If there’s a trend, we want to address it,” said Wilson, who has five points in four games since returning from a seven-game suspension. “The whole season is definitely just to get ready for the meaningful hockey. You want to win games, you want to get there and you want to build your game and feel good about it going into the playoffs.”
The Capitals have been outscored 40-34 in third periods this season. They led 4-0 on Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal 5:15 into the third before a Rangers scoring flurry made things interesting.
Oshie's deflection goal with 8:14 left proved crucial, standing up as the game-winner. Colin Blackwell scored twice on his 28th birthday, No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière scored the fifth goal of his rookie season and Chris Kreider scored on the power play, cutting New York's deficit to one with 3:52 left.
Ilya Samsonov made a few final saves to give him 16 in his second consecutive victory. But the Capitals had to sweat it out.