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Rangers score first, then fall flat to Capitals

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers looks on after surrendering a second period goal against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017 in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

In their ideal world, the Rangers would have had Kevin Shattenkirk in a blue uniform Tuesday night. Instead, Washington made a trade offer that the Blues couldn’t refuse, and the New Rochelle native was in Capitals red at Madison Square Garden.

Shattenkirk, a Rangers fan growing up, said he appreciated the planets-in-alignment circumstances: “It seems like it always happens when guys get traded; they’re playing their former team or playing back home. The beauty of it is that I get to play in front of family and friends, and I think I can turn some Rangers fans into Caps fans tonight.”

In his first game as a player whom management believes can propel them to a championship, Shattenkirk, 28, didn’t hit the scoresheet in 17:57, and no large-scale fan allegiance shift occurred. But the Eastern Conference leaders didn’t need him and skated off with a 4-1 win.

“I kind of expected it was going to be either one of two teams (getting Shattenkirk) if it wasn’t going to be us,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said. “We had conversations, and at some point we decided that it wasn’t in our best interests to go forward.”

Playing without center Mika Zibanejad (hand) and two defensemen, Kevin Klein (back) and Dan Girardi (ankle), the Rangers used speed and quickness in the first period and took a 1-0 lead on Brady Skjei’s finish of a tic-tac-toe sequence from J.T. Miller and Adam Clendening at 5:08.

Skjei later drilled a slapper off the left post on a power play.

Both Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider missed time after unpenalized hits from Tom Wilson and John Carlson, but returned. Jesper Fast also left limping in the third.

“They’re a physical team,” said Skjei.

At 7:07 of the second, Daniel Winnik stalked and then dropped the gloves after a check from Clendening, but both players were tossed for fighting. Twenty-one seconds later, Marcus Johansson’s rebound tied the score. Michael Grabner’s poke-in past Braden Holtby’s glove after a high bounce appeared to provide a 2-1 lead at 12:06. However, the Capitals challenged, and after a lengthy review, it was waved off because Grabner was offside.

“It definitely swung some momentum,” said Marc Staal, “It changed the game, I thought.”

Brett Connolly slid in a loose puck at 16:26, when Kevin Hayes and Nick Holden lost coverage. By period’s end, the Capitals had registered 19 shots and 27 overall, and were up 2-1. Johansson’s second came 1:15 into the third as he directed Evgeny Kuznetsov’s backhand pass over Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulder and Nicklas Backstrom scored on a late power play.

“Not a very good second period and a frustrating third period,” Stepan said after a second consecutive loss. “We just didn’t generate anything.” It was another 0-for-4 blanking on the power play, and asked if the 1-for-29 drought had become a point of frustration, Stepan said: “Absolutely.”

Shattenkirk, an unrestricted free agent in June who can drive a power play, may very well get a multiyear contract offer from Gorton. On Tuesday night, he just wanted to concentrate on the coming months.

“There’s been a lot of different scenarios (already),” he said. “You can’t allow yourself to think of one team.”

New York Sports