(SportsNetwork.com) - One night after posting a big rivalry win, the New York Rangers will aim for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division when they visit the Washington Capitals for Wednesday's battle at Verizon Center.
The Rangers have won two straight and are coming off Tuesday's important victory over the New York Islanders. The Blueshirts posted a 2-1 regulation win at Nassau Coliseum to move within a point of the Islanders for first place in the division and still hold four games in hand over their Long Island rivals.
With the Isles idle on Wednesday, the Rangers, who have 89 points, can forge a tie or take the outright lead atop the Metro this evening. A win on Wednesday also would allow the Rangers to match the Montreal Canadiens for the most points in the Eastern Conference.
Cam Talbot stopped 29 shots and Rick Nash scored the winner early in the third to help the Rangers edge the Isles in the final regular-season meeting between the clubs at Nassau Coliseum.
Kevin Hayes scored the other goal for the Rangers, who are on a four-game point streak with a 3-0-1 mark over the last four outings.
"We knew coming in there that if we could close the gap it would be big," said Talbot. "We have some games in hand here so hopefully we can gain some more ground on them."
New York is playing the fourth part of a five-game road trip tonight and will close the swing Saturday in Buffalo. The Rangers own a strong 20-10-2 record as the visiting team this season.
The Capitals, meanwhile, hope to keep the offense coming tonight when they play for the first time since slamming Buffalo, 6-1, on Saturday. Six different Washington players hit the net in the rout, which marked the club's third win in four games.
After dropping Thursday's 2-1 regulation decision to Minnesota in the opener of a five-game homestand, the Caps rebounded with the lopsided victory over the lowly Sabres. Buffalo grabbed a 1-0 lead 2:35 into the game, but Washington evened the score less than three minutes later and dominated the rest of the way.
The Caps outshot Buffalo 45-17 for the game and held a 39-13 edge in shots from the start of the second period.
Braden Holtby needed to make just 16 saves for the win, while Curtis Glencross led the way with a goal and two assists for the Capitals. Glencross has two goals and two assists in three games since coming over from Calgary before the trade deadline.
Alex Ovechkin and Jay Beagle added a score and helper each, while Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Marcus Johansson also tallied.
Ovechkin leads the NHL with 44 goals and is tied with teammate Nicklas Backstrom for second in the league with 69 points. Backstrom recorded a pair of helpers on Saturday, tying him with Michal Pivonka for the franchise record of 418 assists.
Backstrom, however, is questionable for tonight due to an illness. Washington defensemen Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Orpik (lower body) also could miss the game.
Caps head coach Barry Trotz downplayed the dominating effort against the Sabres, who were playing on consecutive nights.
"I think we benefited a little bit. They (Sabres) were in Ottawa last night. It is a lot harder trip than people realize," Trotz said. "We had to do that earlier in the year and it is a real tough trip."
Washington has 82 points and is holding onto the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Caps are four points ahead of Boston and trail Pittsburgh by four points for third place in the Metro.
The Caps are 19-9-5 as the host this season, but have lost five of their last seven home games against the Rangers. New York has claimed two straight and five of eight in the series overall.