The last time that the Washington Capitals visited Madison Square Garden---April 20th last spring---they erased a 3-0 deficit in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and defeated the Rangers 4-3 in double overtime. The Rangers would not play another home game in the 2011 playoffs as Washington eliminated the Blueshirts in Game Five two nights later.
Much has changed over the past 10 months.
Sunday afternoon at The Garden the Rangers never trailed en-route to winning their third game in four nights, defeating the Caps 3-2. In the process they moved into first place overall in the entire National Hockey League with 77 points, one better than the Detroit Red Wings who were scheduled to play later Sunday evening. Washington, meanwhile, remained on the outsaide looking in to the playoffs, sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
Ryan Callahan scored his fifth goal in the past three games---and 22nd of the sesaon---off a gorgeous back-to-the-net backhand shot while falling down to open the scoring 11:01 into the first period. After Alex Semin tied it with a right circle blast at 6:31 of the second, the Rangers quickly answered back with Ryan McDonagh's goal at 13:21 of the middle period.
McDonagh patiently drifted with the puck to his right, deking Troy Brouwer and setting up a screen in front of Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth before ripping his fifth goal into the cage. McDonagh immediately went down on the play, apparently hurting his knee, and was helped off the ice. Fortunately McDonagh returned a few minutes later and was able to finish the game.
Brandon Prust scored his first goal in 49 games 6:26 into the third period to boost the Rangers lead to 3-1. Prust's goal came shorthanded, and also came off a beautiful odd-man rush feed from Brandon Dubinsky, who had two assists in the game. Marc Staal also assisted on the goal, his first point since returning from a concussion 18 games ago.
Prust, Dubinsky, and Brian boyle also did a terrific job holding Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin in check. Ovechkin did earn one assists, but he was held without a goal and few scoring chances among his five shots in the game as Boyle, Prust, and Dubinsky played a ferocious physical defensive game against him.
Henrik Lundqvust earned his 26th win by stopping 24 of 26 shots, including a huge win through traffic with 20 seconds left in regulation after the Caps had closed to within 3-2.
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