Instant analysis: Rangers 4, Capitals 1

Instant analysis: Rangers 4, Capitals 1
January 19, 2014, 10:00 pm
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New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) celebrates his goal against Washington Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) during the first period at Madison Square Garden.

(Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers Sunday night at MadisonSquareGarden:

How it happened: Bad penalties have been a problem for the Caps all season and they took a toll once again Sunday night as the Rangers rolled to a decisive win. Marty Erat took three minor penalties in the first two periods to tilt the ice in the Rangers’ favor.  New York went on to score once on the power play, once while shorthanded and two at even strength for their fourth win in five games.

What it means: The Rangers grabbed sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division, a spot the Capitals held before going on their current five-game losing streak [0-3-2]. It’s the Capitals’ longest losing streak since their eight-game meltdown in December 2010, prior to the 2011 Winter Classic. They remain in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings and have lost 12 of their last 16 games.

Erat-icated: Marty Erat had one of his worst nights in a Capitals jersey. His hooking penalty led to Rick Nash’s second goal of the game and a 2-0 lead. His interference penalty for knocking down defenseman Ryan McDonagh from behind took away Mike Green’s 4-on-4 goal, which would have brought the Caps within 4-2. And his spear into the groin of Brian Boyle while Boyle was sitting on the puck was … hard to justify. Despite all of that, Erat was on the ice for the opening faceoff of the third period.

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Rough night for Greenlov: The defense combination of Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov was a minus-3 after two periods, making them a minus-5 the past two games. Orlov’s first-period pass intended for Nicklas Backstrom was picked off by Rick Nash, who backhanded the puck over Philipp Grubauer just 70 seconds into the game. Orlov also failed to lift the stick of Ryan Callahan, who scored a shorthanded goal against him to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead 2:25 into the second period.

Short night for Gruby: Rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer was the victim of another poor defensive effort from the Capitals, allowing three goals on eight shots before getting yanked 17:49 into the first period. Grubauer has allowed 6 goals on 22 shots in his last two starts. He was relieved by Braden Holtby, who had another solid game, opening the door for him to make his first start since Jan. 4 on Tuesday when the Ottawa Senators visit Verizon Center.

Ovechkin finds the net: Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 35th goal of the season and his 13th on the power play 59 seconds into the second period to draw the Caps within 3-1. It was Ovechkin’s first goal against Henrik Lundqvist since Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

[RELATED: As Olympics near, Ovechkin on time management]

What’s next: The Capitals have scheduled an 11 a.m. practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They’ll try to end their season-high five-game losing streak Tuesday night.