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Evgeny Kuznetsov scores in overtime to help Capitals beat Rangers

February 24, 2019

In the Washington Capitals’ first home game in two weeks, defense was optional.

The Capitals gave up a two-goal lead and needed overtime, but Evgeny Kuznetsov scored to deliver a 6-5 win over the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena.

Nicklas Backstrom scored twice for Washington. Michal Kempny, Tom Wilson and Nic Dowd also had goals, and Pheonix Copley saved 26 shots.

After winning three in a six-game road trip, the Capitals improved to 35-21-7 (77 points).

In the final minute of overtime, Alex Ovechkin passed to Kuznetsov at Henrik Lundqvist’s left flank and Kuznetsov squeezed in a shot. It trickled past the goalie’s diving body and both Ovechkin and Kuznetsov reached to sweep it over the goal line.

Nick Jensen also made his Capitals debut, two days after the Capitals acquired him in a trade from the Detroit Red Wings. The blueliner played 14 minutes, including 2:30 in penalty kill situations, joining fellow recent acquisition Carl Hagelin in assimilating into the Capitals’ squad in defensive roles.

The Rangers scored goals 21 seconds into the first period and 21 seconds into the third. Chris Kreider scored their first goal off a zippy backhand pass from Jimmy Vesey across the front of the net. But the Capitals didn’t trail long.

First, Backstrom received a John Carlson pass and scooped it past Lundqvist. On the very next shift, Kempny found open ice in the center lane and scored through Lundqvist’s five-hole.

The Capitals kept it up in the second period on a power play. Lars Eller, Jakub Vrana and Wilson executed a tic-tac-toe move to set up Wilson’s career-high 17th goal of the season. Lundqvist broke his stick over the crossbar in frustration after that one.

But Brady Skjei cut the lead down late in the second with a wobbling, floating wrister from the blue line that Copley couldn’t track.

Vesey tied the game in the third period a deja vu moment, coming 21 seconds in. The goal looked more like Skjei’s, though, another wing-and-a-prayer from the blue line.

But Washington had a strong response to move ahead 5-3. First, Dowd grabbed a bouncing pass from behind the net and scored on an open shot two minutes after Vesey’s goal. Then it was Backstrom’s turn again on the next shift, when he found a loose puck in the left circle and sniped it in.

The Rangers came back with a power-play goal owed entirely to Vladislav Namestnikov’s skate, as the original shot’s change of direction was too sudden and drastic to defend.

The Capitals held onto their lead until the Rangers pulled their goalie, and Skjei scored his second goal of the day in 6-on-5 desperation mode to force overtime.

The Capitals return to their home ice Tuesday to face the Ottawa Senators, the NHL’s last-place team.