Panarin, Lafreniere score early as Rangers edge Capitals to end four-game skid
NEW YORK (AP) — Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere scored first-period goals and Igor Shesterkin made 24 saves and the New York Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
The Rangers were coming off Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Capitals on Saturday afternoon and a 1-4-1 overall start to 2024. New York survived constant pressure by the Capitals in the third — and failing to score on five power-play chances of their own — to emerge with the victory.
“Nobody wants to lose hockey games. The urgency grows,'' Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. ”I thought our guys showed up and played well. We stayed focused and fought through to get us a win."
T.J. Oshie scored for Washington, which completed its season series with New York. Both teams won twice.
Panarin scored his team-best 27th goal of the season 50 seconds into the game with assists to Vincent Trocheck and Jacob Trouba. Panarin leads the Rangers with 59 points and has points in 35 of New York’s 42 games this season. The goal was Panarin's 400th point with the Rangers.
Trocheck has 13 points, including five goals in his past eight games and 17 points in his past 14 games.
Lafreniere scored his 11th goal of the season with 50 seconds remaining in the opening period, snaring his own rebound after Washington netminder Charlie Lindgren made an acrobatic save. Defenseman Braden Schneider assisted.
“It was good to get the win, a big two points,'' Lafreniere said. ”We had some big saves from Shesty."
Lindgren, older brother of Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, played for the second straight day. He made a fabulous glove save on Chris Kreider at 15:23 of the second with the Rangers on a 5-on-3 power-play and stopped Jimmy Vesey point-blank at 6:27 of the third after Vesey stripped Max Pacioretty of the puck in the Capitals zone.
The first-place Rangers are 10 points ahead of the Capitals after splitting the weekend pair of games.
”Everyone played a really hard-fought game. To come up short was very unfortunate,'' said Charlie Lindgren, who is 5 years older than Ryan. “They are way up in the standings. We have to keep pushing.”
Washington narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 11:03 of the second period when Oshie scored his fourth off a goalmouth scramble in front of Shesterkin. Linemates Dylan Strome and Pacioretty assisted.
“I liked our game tonight,″ Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said. “I loved our second period. I loved our third period. Our penalty kill was great. I just would have liked to have found a way to get that second one.”
Shesterkin denied Oshie at 13:22 of second and stopped a furious sequence in his crease in the closing moments of the middle period. The 28-year-old netminder, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2021-22, made seven saves in the third period to improve to 17-10-0 in his fifth NHL season.
“These points are crucial right now, a lot of good teams in Metro,'' Ryan Lindgren said of the tightening division race. ”It's fun playing games back to back. They get pretty heated."
Washington was without Alex Ovechkin for the second straight game with a lower-body injury. The 38-year-old forward was hurt Jan. 5 when he became entangled with Carolina’s Jordan Staal, then missed several subsequent practices. He has eight goals and 19 assists this season. Ovechkin has 830 goals, second to Wayne Gretzky’s record 894.
Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko returned after missing 21 games with a lower-body injury, skating on right wing with Mika Zibanejad at center and Kreider on the left. The 22-year-old Kakko was injured on Nov. 27 against Buffalo at home in an awkward fall along the boards.
“I thought he had some really positive minutes. He had some chances to score,'' Laviolette said. ”He was good. It's nice to get him back."
Kakko, the second overall pick by the Rangers in 2019, was grateful to return after the lengthy absence.
“It's fun. It's been a long time. It feels good,'' Kakko said. “Maybe next game I can score also.”
Capitals: Host Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Rangers: Host Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.
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