WASHINGTON — A game that had everything from highlight-reel goals and a fight to a potentially significant injury left one playoff-bound team searching for answers and gave a fading rival a glimmer of hope with plenty of regret about not turning things around sooner.
T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each scored twice, Tom Wilson had a goal against the team he’s ruffled the most during his NHL career and Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers 6-3 on Saturday, snapping their six-game skid.
“Divisional opponent coming in and big rivalry, emotional game, sometimes those are the ones that a team comes together,” Wilson said. “We showed up ready to play.”
The Rangers’ rough run continued with their fourth consecutive loss, which included a costly injury coming on top of another defensive letdown. Top-pairing defenseman Ryan Lindgren left in the first period after taking a hard hit from Oshie into the boards with his left shoulder first and did not return.
Coach Gerard Gallant had no postgame update on Lindgren’s status. But he called the hit “dirty” and “cheap,” and his players immediately knew it wasn’t good.
“He’s a real heart-and-soul guy who does everything for our team,” forward Chris Kreider said. “It definitely hurts the team a lot to lose Ryan like that. Really isn’t another Ryan Lindgren, so it’s a big loss for us.”
Lindgren’s injury could affect New York’s plans ahead of the trade deadline Friday and possibly open the door to acquire longtime Chicago winger Patrick Kane sooner rather than later. They also made a couple of off-ice moves during the game to set that process in motion.
But while Kane can produce plenty offensively — his 1,225 points rank fourth among U.S. players — the three-time Stanley Cup champion doesn’t solve New York’s problem of keeping the puck out of its own net. Even All-Star goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who denied countryman Alex Ovechkin and others with some big saves, couldn’t save the day against the Capitals, giving up five goals on 22 shots before getting pulled after two periods.
“It wasn’t the goalie’s fault, trust me,” Gallant said. “It was more the team. It was all the team.”
Kuznetsov scored one time each against Shesterkin and Jaroslav Halak, while Sonny Milano had Washington’s other goal. Beyond scoring twice, Oshie fought Barclay Goodrow, who was unhappy with the hit on Lindgren, and assisted on Milano’s goal to give him a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
“I get paid a lot of money to put offense up on the board and haven’t been doing it as of late,” Oshie said. “Felt good to get a couple.”
The crowd erupted each time, silencing the many fans in blue who started “Let’s Go Rangers!” chants early and had only Goodrow’s deflection goal in the first period and one each from Kreider and Kaapo Kakko in the third to celebrate.
There hasn’t been much to be happy about for the Capitals lately, given their struggles and the trade Thursday of defenseman Dmitry Orlov and winger Garnet Hathaway, though this game, with an offensive outburst and Darcy Kuemper’s 23 saves, provided a much-needed respite.
Washington is still expected to trade more pending free agents before the deadline but with the win got to 64 points and remains in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
The Rangers are solidly in as one of the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division, but another defeat hurt their chances of keeping pace with the second-place New Jersey Devils, who could also make a move or two before the deadline in advance of the teams’ potential first-round showdown.
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