Rangers-Capitals Preview

Washington has 19 more tuneups before trying to live up to its regular-season success and exorcise its playoff demons.

The Capitals realize, though, that if they carry their recent lackadaisical play into the postseason, they might find themselves facing the same issues as in years past.

The New York Rangers roared back from the brink of elimination to defeat Washington in last season's playoffs, and they'll try to snap the Capitals' three-game winning streak in the series Friday night in D.C.

Washington (47-12-4) matched the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most victories through 63 games with Thursday's 3-2 home win over Toronto, but it needed Matt Niskanen's power-play goal with 10:29 left to survive against the league's worst club.

The surprisingly tough contest came one night after the Caps fell behind 2-0 to Pittsburgh before T.J. Oshie scored on the power play late in the third to give them a third unanswered goal and a hard-fought victory.

"We've been fortunate we've got enough firepower where we can kind of find a way to win, but we know down the stretch and in the playoffs it's not going to be that easy," said defenseman Taylor Chorney, who scored his first goal in more than five years against the Maple Leafs.

Success on the power play certainly has helped. Washington has scored at least once with the man advantage in each of its last four and has the best conversion rate in the NHL at 23.9 percent.

The Capitals have played eight consecutive one-goal games, winning six.

"The power play has found different ways to score goals," Oshie said. "Obviously, you got Alex (Ovechkin) over there on the side, that's always your No. 1 option. But there's so many different ways we've been scoring them, and that's going to be huge at the end of the season here and into the postseason."

Washington hasn't reached the Eastern Conference finals since losing to Detroit in the '98 Stanley Cup Final - eight years before Ovechkin arrived - and has been ousted by the Rangers (37-20-6) in seven games in each of its last three appearances.

Ovechkin, who scored an even-strength goal against Toronto to increase his league-leading total to 41, has scored in nine straight regular-season meetings with New York. That streak becomes 10 with Game 7 of last year's second-round matchup, when the Rangers completed a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

They won the first meeting this season Nov. 3, but the Capitals have taken the last three while scoring 16 goals. Justin Williams had a hat trick in Washington's 5-2 victory in the last matchup Jan. 17.

New York is completing a stretch of playing five of six on the road after having a three-game winning streak snapped with Thursday's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh. It sits in second place in the Metropolitan Division, 18 points behind the NHL-leading Capitals.

Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals on 22 shots before leaving in the second period because of neck spasms following a collision with defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

"He's obviously an elite player so we hope everything's all right with him," center Eric Staal said. "We'll get some rest and try to rebound for (Friday)."

Antti Raanta, who stopped all three shots he faced against Pittsburgh after replacing Lundqvist, started the last meeting and likely will get the nod in this one. The Rangers also recalled goalie Magnus Hellberg from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis, suggesting Lundqvist may not be available for backup duty.

Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals but has struggled with a .877 save percentage while starting each matchup with New York this season.

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