WASHINGTON — Losing hurts, of course, and it should. And the Rangers weren’t thinking about moral victories in the moments after their 4-3 overtime loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals Wednesday night.
But despite Matt Niskanen’s rebound goal with 2:42 left in the overtime to give the Caps the win, the Rangers still managed to take away a point from this loss. Add that point to the two they earned from their shootout win over Colorado on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, and the Rangers could feel good about what they had accomplished in the span of about 27 hours — taking three out of a possible four points to improve to 2-4-1 on the young season.
“Yeah, that’s big, coming away with a point — three out of four,’’ said forward Chris Kreider, whose power-play goal midway through the third period forced the overtime. He leads the team with four goals. “Obviously, we’d like to have four out of four, but three out of four’s pretty good, considering the travel and the strength of the opponents that we played. So, it’s something we can hang our hat on. But I think we can get to the point where we’re getting all four points.’’
Another time, perhaps. This time, they were hurt by two power-play goals from Alexander Ovechkin, who scored both in the second period, on virtually identical one-time shots from the top of the left wing circle. It was the first time, for Rangers rookie coach David Quinn, that he’d witnessed Ovechkin doing that to a team he coached, and he didn’t like it one bit.
“Sickening,’’ he said when asked what he thought of Ovechkin at work in his “office.’’
He’s lucky, though, Ovechkin had one more shot that beat goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but it rang off the crossbar inside the final two minutes of regulation. Had that gone in, the Rangers wouldn’t have gotten any points. Lundqvist made 34 saves.
Quinn kept his streak alive of dressing a different lineup every game. He’s done so each game this season, though he thought a long time Wednesday about staying with the same group that had played so well and won on Tuesday. Ultimately, though, Quinn decided to re-insert Pavel Buchnevich for Cody McLeod, which was his only change.
Quinn also chose to stay with Henrik Lundqvist in goal for the second straight night, even after the goalie had played overtime and gone to a shootout Tuesday.
“He and I talked this summer about situations like this and we talked, between myself, Ben [Allaire, the goalie coach] and Hank, and we feel like, with three days off coming up, this is a good time to go back-to-back,’’ Quinn said.
The Rangers don’t play again until Sunday night, when they host the Calgary Flames.
Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead when he banged in the rebound of a shot by Kreider at 6:09 of the first period. Washington tied it at 14:05 of the period on a goal by John Carlson, who beat Lundqvist through a screen for his third goal of the season.
Ovechkin’s first goal came at 3:32 of the second period, with Brett Howden in the box for tripping. The Rangers tied it when Jimmy Vesey scored a power-play goal at 12:42, but Ovechkin’s second goal made it 3-2 at 17:01.
Rangers defenseman Neal Pionk assisted on all three goals, tying a career-high.