So the Rangers waited until the third period to start playing for the second straight game against the Capitals.
It was yet another four-goal surge like they had in the final 20 minutes of the loss in Washington on Sunday, but this time it was enough to secure a 5-2 win over the Capitals on Tuesday night.
The Rangers didn’t look like a team that was ready to face the top team in its division at the start of the night. But thanks to goalie Igor Shesterkin, who put forth another resilient performance to keep his team within a goal through 40 minutes, and an awakening in the final frame, the Blueshirts were able to finish the late-game comeback this time around.
With the Capitals continuing to hound the Rangers into their defensive zone as they had all night to start the third, Artemi Panarin intercepted a pass at the blue line and sent his line off to the races. He dished to Ryan Strome, who found Kaapo Kakko at the doorstep for the tap-in at 4:10 to knot the game 2-2.
It sent a jolt throughout the Rangers lineup, maybe a reminder of what it felt like to fall short two days earlier.
Roughly 2 ½ minutes after the equalizer, Adam Fox then drove to the net and backhanded the puck past Capitals netminder Vitek Vanecek for the go-ahead goal. It extended Fox’s point streak to eight games and made him the first Rangers defenseman with 30 points in a season’s first 35 games since Brian Leetch.
Panarin capitalized on a breakaway, sprung by a long pass from Brendan Smith, for the insurance tally at 15:41 before a shorthanded empty-net goal from Pavel Buchnevich secured the victory.
The Rangers were 0-10 when trailing heading into the third period prior to Tuesday’s win, which also gave them the only winning record over the Capitals in the East.
Shesterkin proved to be the only thing standing between the Capitals and another five-goal game, as the rookie netminder turned aside 30 of the 32 shots he faced. He was the reason the Rangers remained competitive through a majority of the game, especially when he came up with six saves during the Capitals’ power play in the second period.
The Rangers fell behind 2-0 within the first 4:21 of the game as the surging Capitals were heavy on the forecheck from the moment the puck dropped. Washington did what it wanted, with no pushback from the Blueshirts, who were outshot 9-0 in the opening minutes.
Kevin Rooney’s holding penalty on Nick Jensen less than two minutes into the game opened the door for T.J Oshie to capitalize on the Capitals’ power play. With the Rangers still adjusting to the pace that Washington had set, Nic Dowd made it 2-0 after pushing it over the goal line through a pileup in front of Shesterkin.
Filip Chytil saved the Rangers from getting entirely shown up in the first period when he forced a turnover and finished on the breakaway to cut the Capitals’ lead 2-1 at 15:36.
The Rangers had ample opportunities to create their own momentum through the first two periods. After the Capitals were called for too many men on the ice at 12:29 of the first, the Rangers were too cute with their passes and only put two shots on net.
And when Zdeno Chara took a penalty with seconds left in the first period, the Rangers started the second with 1:19 left on the power play and still couldn’t make an offensive push.