Rangers lose to Caps, now must wait on Canucks

April 07, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Washington scored three first-period goals and third-string goaltender Braden Holtby made 35 saves Saturday night to help the Capitals beat the Rangers 4-1, spoiling New York’s chance to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Rangers (51-24-7) finished with 109 points for the third time in franchise history and remain tied with Vancouver for the league’s top spot. The Canucks host Edmonton later Saturday.

The Capitals quieted the Madison Square Garden crowd quickly as Alex Ovechkin and Mathieu Perreault scored on Washington’s first two shots against Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Washington (42-32-8) has 92 points and will be the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference if Florida earns at least a point against Carolina. Washington would open the playoffs in Boston, while the Rangers host Ottawa in the first round.

If the Panthers win the Southeast Division, they would host New Jersey in the opening round.

The Capitals clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight year with their 4-2 win over Florida on Tuesday.

Ovechkin got his 38th goal of the season just 32 seconds into the game after Brooks Laich won a faceoff and backhanded the puck back to Ovechkin, who fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist.

Perreault made it 2-0 at 2:18 of the first, tipping a Roman Hamrlik slapshot past Lundqvist. Defenseman John Carlson extended the lead to 3-0 with 1:47 to go in the period before Nicklas Backstrom scored his 14th at 5:58 of the second to complete Washington’s scoring.

The goal was Backstrom’s first since Dec. 30. The center had missed 40 games with concussion symptoms, returning to the Capitals’ lineup March 31.

The Capitals are 11-5-2 in their last 18 regular-season games against the Rangers and 5-2-1 in their last six at MSG.

Brian Boyle scored for New York with 7:16 left in the second on a wraparound past Holtby. It was Boyle’s 11th of the season.

The 22-year-old Holtby, who has played most of the season for Hershey of the AHL, started because of injuries to Michal Neuvirth (lower-body) and Tomas Vokoun (groin).

Holtby, who improved to 4-2-1, was a fourth-round choice by the Capitals in the 2008 draft. He made acrobatic breakaway saves on Carl Hagelin and Brandon Prust midway through the third period.

New York was trying to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since 1993-94, when they recorded a franchise-best 112 points and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.

The Presidents’ Trophy was first awarded in 1985-86 to the NHL’s top regular season team. The Rangers also captured it in 1991-92, when they were 50-25-5 and went on to lose in the second round of the playoffs to Pittsburgh.

NOTES: Ovechkin has the most points in the NHL (678) since 2005-06. ... Washington was 26-11-4 at home this season but 16-21-4 on the road. ... Since the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994, only four Presidents’ Trophy winners went on to win the Stanley Cup: Dallas in 1999, Colorado in 2001 and Detroit in 2002 and 2008. The two other dual winners since 1986 are Edmonton (1987) and Calgary (1989). ... Dany Sabourin, who last played in the NHL in 2008-09 for Pittsburgh, was recalled from AHL Hershey to back up Holtby.

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