After starting their season-high nine-game homestand with an extremely disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, the Rangers (15-14-1, 31 pts) are right back at it Sunday night when they host another Metropolitan Division foe, the Washington Capitals (15-12-2, 32 pts), at Madison Square Garden. The quick turnaround might be best for the Blueshirts in order to get the bad taste out of their mouths after letting a 2-0 second-period lead slip away the night before.
Where the Rangers have long been known as a team that shuts games down and puts them away when carrying leads into the third period, they now have a regulation defeat and an overtime loss when leading after two in their last four such games. They also let a third period lead slip away on November 29th up in Boston, a 3-2 loss.
Part of what makes Saturday's defeat so hard to accept for the Blueshirts is that they showed resolve by battling back to force overtime once the Devils had taken a 3-2 lead late in the third period. Chris Kreider's power play goal with under a minute to play earned the Rangers an important point in the standings by forcing overtime, though the ecstasy of the moment was quashed minutes later when New Jersey scored a power play goal of their own in overtime with Ryan Callahan in the penalty box.
A point is a point, though, and the Rangers will take it. They sit tied for third place with Carolina in the Metropolitan Division with 31 points, one behind second-place Washington, making Sunday's contest another important one. Due to Saturday's result, New Jersey is just a point behind New York and Carolina as the season hits the 30-games played mark.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault stated Saturday that he's coming right back ith Henrik Lundqvist in goal against the Capitals. Lundqvist made 20 saves on Saturday after a brilliant 27-save outing in Thursday's 3-1 win up in Buffalo. Lifetime in the regular season Lundqvist is 15-7-3 with four shutouts and a 2.55 goals against average against the Capitals. Braden Holtby. who made 34 saves in Washington's 5-2 win over Nashville on Saturday, is expected to start back to back nights like Lundqvist and face the Rangers on Sunday.
The Rangers may have to play without key defenseman Marc Staal, who was forced to leave Saturday's game in the third period after taking a shoulder to the chin from New Jersey's Reid Boucher. After the game Vigneault said Staal did not feel "quite right" and was being evaluated by medical personnel. His status for Sunday is up in the air; and should he not be able to play, Michael Del Zotto would rejoin the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It is also not known if Derek Dorsett, who has missed the past two games with a sore wrist, will be abe to return to face the Caps. He and Benoit Pouliot were the forwards scratched by the Rangers against the Devils on Saturday.
Washington has won three of their last four games overall, including overtime wins over the Islanders and Canadiens. On Saturday the Caps were led by Eric Fehr, who had a goal and an assist, while Michael Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom both had a pair of assists. The Capitals scored three times in the first period, including Alex Ovehckin's league-leading 22nd goal of the season.
In the month of November the Caps earned points in five of their six road games, posting a 3-1-2 record away from the Verizon Center. Overall they are 5-5-2 on the road this season.