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Red-hot Rangers host sliding Caps
(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Metropolitan Division foes will meet for the final time in the 2013-14 regular season on Sunday, as the surging New York Rangers host the sliding Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals have lost four straight, including two in a row in regulation, and are 2-4-4 over their last 10 games. However, Washington has gotten the better of the Rangers so far this season, taking two straight after losing the season-series opener 2-0 in D.C. on Oct. 16.
Washington has claimed three of four overall in the series and also has won two straight and three of its past four tilts in Manhattan.
The Rangers, who have won five of their last six games, are currently tied with Philadelphia for second place in the Metro Division. Washington is three points back and locked in a three-way tie with Columbus and Detroit for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
After blowing a third-period lead in a 4-3 regulation loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Capitals were routed 5-1 in Columbus on Friday. The Blue Jackets jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the early stages of the second period and cruised to victory from there.
John Carlson produced the lone offense for the Capitals, who are on their third four-game slide of the season. Washington hasn't dropped five straight since an 0-6-2 stretch from Dec. 2-18, 2010.
Philipp Grubauer was yanked in the second period on Friday and took the loss after giving up three goals on 14 shots in almost 22 minutes. Braden Holtby finished up by allowing two scores on 22 shots.
Although Washington cut the deficit to two goals by the end of 40 minutes, any hopes Washington had of climbing back into the contest were dashed in a span of just over three minutes early in the third period. Mark Letestu pumped home a power-play score at 1:08 to give the hosts a 4-1 edge, then Cam Atkinson measured Holtby for his second of the night with 4:24 played for a four-goal spread.
"You just can't let a game get away and be that easy. It's not right," said Caps head coach Adam Oates.
Washington is just 8-10-4 as the road team this season and is capping a three- game trip on Sunday. The Caps, however, will be home for just one game -- Tuesday's test against Ottawa -- before heading back out on a five-game trek.
New York has been on fire of late, posting a 10-3-1 record over the last 14 contests. The Rangers picked up a second straight victory on Saturday, downing the Ottawa Senators on the road by a 4-1 score.
Derek Stepan posted a goal and two assists to lead the Rangers to their third straight road victory. Mats Zuccarello, Brad Richards and Rick Nash also scored for the Rangers, while Cam Talbot stopped 29 shots in the win.
"We've been playing like this for a while and not letting what the other team does dictate our play," said Talbot. "We've been doing this for a while now and have been able to find some success with it."
Henrik Lundqvist expects to be back in net for the Rangers on Sunday. New York's No. 1 goaltender is 15-8-3 with a 2.61 goals against average and four shutouts in 26 career games against the Capitals.
The Blueshirts are playing the first of three straight on home ice tonight and have won three of their last four at MSG. New York is 11-11-3 as the host this season.
01/19 10:49:29 ET