New York Rangers seek fast start in clash versus Caps
The New York Rangers are facing a Washington Capitals team on the brink of missing the playoffs for just the fourth time in Alex Ovechkin’s career.
But the playoff-bound Blueshirts might be the more ill-tempered team Sunday afternoon when they visit the Capitals for the final regular-season meeting between the longtime division rivals.
Here’s tonight’s game and broadcast info:
New York Rangers (44-21-11) vs. Washington Capitals (34-33-9)
Date/Time: April 2, 2023 at 1:00 PM ET
Arena: Capital One Arena
Radio: ESPN 98.7
New York Rangers look for better start
The Rangers concluded a winless back-to-back road set Friday when they fell 2-1 to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime. The Capitals haven’t played since Thursday, when their playoff hopes continued dimming with a 5-1 loss to the host Tampa Bay Lightning.
The consecutive losses were the first since March 2-4 for the Rangers (44-21-11, 99 points), who clinched a playoff berth Monday night and will assure themselves no worse than a third-place finish in the Metropolitan Division with either one more point or one more loss by the New York Islanders.
But the losses to the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils — who solidified their grip on second place in the Metropolitan with a 2-1 win on Thursday night — left Rangers coach Gerard Gallant in a bad mood Friday night.
“I’m pissed off tonight,” Gallant said. “We clinched a week ago, and it seems like they think the season is over. It’s not the way it works. There’s no message. You show up and play NHL hockey games. You play like that people get hurt. You get run over in your own zone and people get tired. You’ve got to respect the goaltender and your defense. We’re not playing the game the right way.”
The three goals the Rangers have scored in the last two games are their fewest in a two-game span since they absorbed back-to-back 4-1 losses to the Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 20-23.
The Rangers are now five points behind the Devils and six points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan and appear to be headed to opening the first round on the road.
The second half of the season has been filled with unsatisfying games for the Capitals (34-33-9, 77 points), who have lost three straight (0-2-1) and six of seven (1-4-2) to all but fall out of the playoff race.
The Capitals have lost 16 of 23 (7-13-3) since Feb. 1, a span in which they’ve won consecutive games just once. The loss to the Lightning marked the second straight game in which they scored just one goal.
Washington entered Saturday in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and seven points behind the second wild card, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have a game in hand.
The Capitals haven’t missed the playoffs since the spring of 2014, which was the first time they were home for the tournament since 2007 — back when Ovechkin was completing his second season in the NHL.
“We’re focused on the end of this year here,” Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said prior to Thursday’s game. “We need every point we can get. We know we’ve got to have a really hot finish here to have a chance.”
Defenseman Ryan Lindgren is nearing a return from his latest injury but a definitive date has not been set.
“I know he’ll play before the season is over,” Gallant noted on Saturday. “Unless something strange happens, he’s on track to play soon.”
–Field Level Media
–Forever Blueshirts contributed to this article