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Capitals eliminate Rangers from playoff contention

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Daniel Sprong scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the visiting Washington Capitals went on to defeat the New York Rangers 6-3 on Monday night.

Sprong intercepted a pass from Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith deep in the slot and tucked the puck in at 4:31. Nicklas Backstrom got behind the defense and added an insurance goal at 11:41, and Tom Wilson sealed the win with an empty-net goal at 18:34.

Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Wilson each had a goal and an assist for Washington (33-14-5, 71 points), which climbed into a tie for first place in the East Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Conor Sheary collected a goal, Michael Raffl had two assists, and Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves.

Mika Zibanejad scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season for the Rangers (26-21-6, 58 points), who were eliminated from playoff contention. Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves. Kaapo Kakko scored a goal, and Artemi Panarin had two assists before leaving in the second period with a lower-body injury.

The Capitals played most of the game with 10 forwards after Alex Ovechkin, who returned after missing four games with a lower-body injury, left after playing just 39 seconds. Forward T.J. Oshie (personal/family reasons) was out as were forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Ilya Samsonov (both for team disciplinary reasons).

Washington defenseman John Carlson returned after missing two games.

The Rangers were without forwards Chris Kreider (lower body) and Brett Howden (foot) as well as defensemen Ryan Lindgren (upper body) and Jacob Trouba (upper body).

The Capitals scored two goals in 1:32 late in the first period.

Dowd got behind the Rangers’ defense and put a wrist shot between Shesterkin’s pads at 14:12. Sheary controlled a deflected puck, spun and scored from below the left circle at 15:44.

Zibanejad snapped a shot past Vanecek from the left circle on the rush to pull New York within 2-1 at 18:00 of the opening period. Zibanejad tied the score with a power-play goal from the slot off a centering pass from Ryan Strome at 2:30 of the second period.

Kakko capped a two-on-one when he slid the puck by Vanecek to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 4:35 of the second, but Hathaway tied it when he knocked in a rebound at 18:30 of the middle period.

–Field Level Media

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