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Capitals break Rangers' 5-game winning streak

Washington Capitals' Troy Brouwer , center, watches his

Washington Capitals' Troy Brouwer , center, watches his goal get past New York Rangers' goalie Martin Biron and Rangers' defender Ryan McDonagh (27) during the second period. (Dec. 28, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- With a spot atop the Eastern Conference standings and a five-game winning streak in their back pocket, the Rangers didn't expect to struggle against the floundering Capitals.

But Washington had all the pop last night at the Verizon Center, beating the Rangers, 4-1.

Backup goalie Martin Biron (7-2-0), who started in place of the healthy Henrik Lundqvist, made 19 saves on 23 shots.

The loss only partially can be blamed on some soft goaltending. Biron was plagued by costly errors from his defense early that Washington capitalized on.

After defenseman Michael Del Zotto couldn't control a pass in his own end, Washington's Marcus Johansson stole the puck and passed it to Jeff Halpern. His one-timer ricocheted off Biron's pads, and Johansson was there to score on the rebound at 8:18.

"It's some brain-dead plays at our blue line as far as turnovers," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's unfortunate for Del Z. He loses the puck with the first one, but a turnover by Mitch [John Mitchell] and a turnover by Richie [Brad Richards] not against their third or fourth line but against their top line. It kills us."

The Rangers tied it at 17:16 of the first after Ryan Callahan blocked Washington defenseman John Carlson's hard dump-in just past mid-ice. The puck ended up on the stick of Brandon Dubinsky, who took it all the way to score on a wrist shot.

The Capitals, however, proved to be the more aggressive team in the second period.

At the 10:24 mark, Carlson fired a hard shot from the Rangers' blue line. Troy Brouwer, screening Biron, redirected the puck into the net for a 2-1 lead.

Washington added to its advantage at 13:02 of the second. After Alex Ovechkin checked Richards to dislodge the puck, Nicklas Backstrom made a cross-ice pass to Alexander Semin on a breakaway. Semin made a strong move to the net and completed it with a backhand shot past Biron to make it 3-1.

"We couldn't sustain the pressure [in their zone] and they made some adjustments to prevent our down-low play," Biron said. "In the second period, they capitalized on the few opportunities they got and we were playing from behind against a team that is good at shutting things down a little bit."

Semin finished off the Rangers at 17:25 of the third with a hard wrister. "Semin got a couple of goals. He seemed really hungry on the puck," Biron said.

And while the Capitals were able to take advantage in the offensive end, the Rangers did not. They had five power plays and didn't convert on any of them.

The Rangers had a chance to jump on top at 6:40 of the first period when Artem Anisimov made a strong move behind the net for a wraparound, but Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun dove to make the last-second stop. Vokun made 31 saves.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter said of his goaltender: "They got a lot of good snipers over there and he had to be sharp. When they did get in, he made some big stops for us."

The Rangers (22-9-4) move on to Florida where they play the Panthers tomorrow night.

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