Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during...

Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

Of all the possible opponents the Rangers could have faced in the first round of the playoffs, the Washington Capitals were always going to offer the most intriguing storylines.

Among the four teams who entered the final week of the regular season with a chance to be the Rangers’ first-round opponent – Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – the Capitals had the best record against the Rangers, splitting the four-game season series, with each team winning both of their home games. The Rangers had winning records against the other three teams.

 The Rangers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy after posting the best record in the league (55-23-4, good for 114 points), should be favored to win the series against the Capitals (40-31-11, 91 points), but it may not be so easy.

The Rangers, who were the first team to clinch a playoff spot on March 26, didn’t look so superior in the regular season against Washington, the last team in. The teams not only split their four game, but each scored the same number of goals (9-9).

The Caps won 4-0 on Dec. 9, getting a first-minute goal from Massapequa native Sonny Milano on the way to handing the Blueshirts their second straight loss, the first time all season the Rangers had lost consecutive games. It was the only game in which the Rangers were shut out, and first-year coach Peter Laviolette, making his first return to Washington since he and Capitals “parted ways’’ after last season, was visibly upset at the result.

“It was not good, from the start to the finish,’’ he said after the game.

The Rangers won 5-1 in their next meeting on Dec. 27 at Madison Square Garden, in the first game after the Christmas break, and the teams split a weekend home-and-home set the following month, the Caps winning 3-2 in Washington on Jan. 13 and the Rangers winning 2-1 the next day at the Garden. The Capitals’ win dealt the Rangers their fourth consecutive loss, marking their longest losing streak of the season.

Aside from Laviolette going up against the team he coached the last three seasons, the series will see Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren playing against his older brother Charlie, who emerged as the Capitals’ No. 1 goaltender over the course of this season.

Charlie Lindgren had been Washington’s backup goalie when he started the Dec. 9 game, but after making 31 saves to earn his second shutout of the season he began his ascent to the No. 1 job. He started three of the four games against the Rangers – including both ends of the Jan. 13-14 back-to-back – and had both Capitals wins, posting a 1.34 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage in the three games.

Milano, who battled through an injury-filled season this year, but still managed to score 15 goals and 23 points in 49 games, will get a chance to play in front of friends and family, and the Rangers’ defense and goalie Igor Shesterkin will face the challenge of Alexander Ovechkin, who scored his 31st goal of the season and 853rd of his career in the 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night to clinch the playoff spot.

Finally, there is also the matter of Capitals forward Tom Wilson, who is Public Enemy No. 1 in the Garden after his body slam of Artemi Panarin in a game on May 3, 2021.

Wilson’s antics that night, and the NHL’s decision to not suspend him andonly fine him $5,000, led to a line brawl and a fight-filled game in the rematch between the teams two days later.

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