NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers gave coach Gerard Gallant the strong start he was looking for, and then they had to hold on for a big win.
Mika Zibanejad scored twice in the first period and the Rangers beat the short-handed Washington Capitals 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Building off an excellent third period in their overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Rangers came out flying in this one, scoring three times in the first while outshooting the Capitals 19-9.
“The start was great,” Gallant said. “The first period was outstanding. Nineteen shots, they shot the puck, they got inside, they did a lot of real good things. Real happy with the first period. After that it was OK. It was much better than the previous game, put it that way.”
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, Jacob Trouba and Jimmy Vesey also scored and Vincent Trocheck had two assists for the Rangers, who are 3-0-1 in their last four games and 5-2-1 in their past eight. Igor Shesterkin made 28 saves to help New York win the opener of a five-game homestand, its longest of the season.
“We are finding ways to win," Kane said. "Tonight was a step in the right direction. We have a lot of depth here. ... It’s nice to see us stay in it and Shesterkin definitely made some unbelievable saves.”
Matt Irwin had a goal and an assist, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Nic Dowd also scored for a Capitals team minus star left wing Alex Ovechkin (lower-body injury). Darcy Kuemper finished with 31 saves as Washington lost for the third time in four games.
“Our first period wasn’t good enough," coach Peter Laviolette said. "They were quicker, they beat us to pucks and spaces. ... They came out with that pace and we were second in a lot of areas.”
Trailing 4-2, the Capitals were on a power play early in the third period when Shesterkin snatched a high shot from Washington's Dylan Strome to preserve New York's two-goal lead. Just six seconds after another Capitals power play expired, Dowd knocked in the rebound of his own shot in front to pull Washington within one with 8:12 left.
Vesey scored an empty-netter to restore the Rangers' two-goal lead with 2:11 remaining.
Zibanejad got the Rangers on the scoreboard first as he converted a give-and-go with Vladimir Tarasenko and fired his return pass past Kuemper from between the circles at 4:09 of the first period.
Aube-Kubel tied it with 5:31 left in the first as he scored from the right circle for his fourth of the season.
Zibanejad put the Rangers right back ahead 16 seconds later with his second of the night and team-leading 34th. Shesterkin made a long pass to Panarin, who brought the puck up the left side, skated around defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, cut toward the net and passed to Zibanejad, who was driving toward the front and put a backhand past Kuemper.
Shesterkin was credited with an assist, his first of the season.
“He can shoot it, there's no doubt,” Gallant said of Shesterkin's pass. “Sometimes it works real good like it did there on that goal. He's been real good for us lately obviously, and tonight he was real good again.”
Kane pushed the Rangers' lead to 3-1 with 1:14 left in the first as fired a shot through traffic on a power play for his 19th of the season and third in six games since coming to New York from Chicago before the trade deadline. It was Kane's first goal at Madison Square Garden since the trade in just his second home game.
“It’s pretty special at MSG. It’s entertainment, it’s a show,” he said.
Trouba made it a three-goal lead as he fired a shot past Kuemper at 4:09 of the second.
Irwin pulled the Capitals to 4-2 with 7:52 left in the middle period as he scored from the left circle.
NO OVECHKIN, NO WIN
Washington has lost all six games it has played without Ovechkin this season, including four games last month following the death of his father, and nine straight dating to last season. The Russian left wing has 36 goals and 26 assists in 62 games this season.
Capitals: Host Buffalo on Wednesday night in the first of two straight at home.
Rangers: Host Pittsburgh on Thursday night in the first of two straight against the Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
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