New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals Pick & Prediction JANUARY 14th 2024

The New York Rangers reached the halfway point of the regular season with another loss, threatening to derail their stellar start and their lead atop the Metropolitan Division.

The Rangers now face the prospect of sustaining a fifth straight loss for the first time in nearly three years when they return to New York for the conclusion of a home-and-home set with the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

The division foes are concluding the season series less than 24 hours after the Capitals rallied for a 3-2 victory on Saturday afternoon. New York made defensive coverage mistakes that enabled Nick Dowd and T.J. Oshie to score 1:53 apart in the third period and could not overcome the deficit in the final 11-plus minutes.

New York has mixed in one-goal losses with lopsided defeats in its worst skid under first-year coach Peter Laviolette. The losing streak began with a shootout loss Jan. 6 in Montreal before dropping three-goal decisions to the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues. The Rangers are trying to avoid losing five straight for the first time since April 29-May 6, 2021, toward the end of the 56-game pandemic season.

The outcome in Washington is part of a slump that has existed for over a month. The Rangers were 18-4-1 with an eight-point lead atop the Metropolitan following their 6-5 home win over the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 3. Since then, they are 8-9-1.

“We’re not playing terrible hockey,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “You’re going to go through stretches like this. We’re still getting our opportunities. We’re getting pucks to the net. It’s not like we’re getting dominated or run out of buildings. We’re right there.”

Defenseman Adam Fox scored twice Saturday but the Rangers were held to 27 shots on goal after getting 132 in the first three games of the losing streak. New York also saw 22 attempts blocked, including six by Artemi Panarin, who was held without a point for the seventh time this season.

One of New York’s best performances of its rough patch was a 5-1 home win over Washington on Dec. 27 when it scored three times in a span of 5:45 in the second period.

Washington’s visit to New York is part of a 3-5-2 stretch since it won three straight beyond regulation Dec. 17-21. On Saturday, the Capitals finished with 21 shots on goal but Anthony Mantha scored on a breakaway after blocking a shot while Dowd and Oshie scored by crashing the net and converting passes from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dylan Strome, respectively.

“In the third period, you see the group dig in,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “I think that’s where the word ‘character’ (comes in) and where our guys really thrive in those moments of hanging on and supporting one another, and communicating on the bench, and blocking huge shots.”

Washington withstood Alex Ovechkin’s absence due to the lingering effects of a lower-leg injury sustained Jan. 5. He has an “outside chance” of playing, according to coach Carbery.

“That’s a massive hole to try to fill and a massive presence on the bench, on the ice, and in our locker room,” Oshie said. “So everyone needs to give a little bit extra when Big Eight isn’t out there with us. We miss him and we’re hoping we get him back real soon.”

–Field Level Media

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