Zuccarello, Zibanejad lead Rangers past Caps 1-0 in shootout

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NEW YORK (AP) — Ondrej Pavelec and Philipp Grubauer were unbeatable for 65 minutes. Pavelec kept it up in the shootout, and the New York Rangers finally found a way to score on the Washington Capitals' goalie.

Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad scored in the tiebreaker to lift the Rangers to a 1-0 victory over their Metropolitan Division rivals on Wednesday night.

Pavelec stopped all 30 shots he faced through overtime and then denied T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin in the shootout. The backup goalie's first shutout this season and the 18th of his career helped the Rangers improve to 4-1-1 in their last six games.

"We played really well defensively, especially in the third period," Pavelec said. "We had a great start. We set the tone in the first period. The second period we were up and down. ... That's a really dangerous team if you put them on the power play and I think we did a great job. Overall, I think we can be happy with the effort and move on."

After neither team could get anything past the backup goalies through overtime, Zuccarello finally put one past Grubauer on the first shootout attempt as he skated in, moved to the right and beat the Washington goalie with a backhand. Pavelec then stopped Oshie and, after Zibanejad also beat Grubauer from the right side, the Rangers' goalie denied Ovechkin to secure the win.

Asked what he was thinking as Ovechkin was approaching on his attempt, Pavelec said: "That I have to make the save. That's pretty much all you can do, just focus on you. ... He has some moves and he can shoot the puck really well. I was just trying to be patient and be square. Actually, I didn't make that save, he missed the net."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault praised his team's defensive effort in the first game after the NHL's three-day Christmas break.

"I'm hoping that we are going to continue to play that way," Vigneault said. "A big part of tonight if you want to talk about our defensive game was our play with the puck. Play with the puck quick, make the right decisions, and you can create some great looks offensively like I thought we did."

Grubauer had 37 saves for the Capitals, who have lost three straight (0-1-2) since winning 11 of 13.

Both teams had good chances in overtime, and each one hit a post. Pavelec stopped Oshie on a backhand in front 20 seconds into the extra period, and Grubauer denied J.T. Miller's wrist shot a minute later. The Rangers went on the power play when Ovechkin was whistled for tripping Miller with 25 seconds left, but couldn't get a shot on goal.

Capitals defenseman John Carlson sent the puck through an empty crease on a wraparound attempt, but it hit the far post and stayed out. Zibanejad hit a post just before the horn.

Ovechkin didn't think the Capitals tested Pavelec enough.

"Not really," the Washington star said. "I think we had a couple of good chances but I think throughout the whole game, he was able to see the shots and there was no traffic. When we had the opportunity to shoot the puck, we tried to make a play. Sometimes if you have one chance, you have to use it and put it in and we didn't."

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 18-6 in the third, including numerous chances from in close in the opening minutes of the period. Grubauer also made a flurry of saves near the midpoint after Nash and Zibanejad skated in on a 2-on-1 break.

Pavelec stopped Ovechkin's shot from the inside edge of the left circle with seven seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

The Capitals had a 13-8 advantage in shots in the second period. Pavelec made a left pad save on a sharp-angle shot by Oshie nearly two minutes in, stopped consecutive backhand attempts in front by Alex Chiasson five minutes later, and then denied Christian Djoos on an in-close try. Pavelec saved tips by Jakub Vrana just past the midpoint of the period and Nicklas Backstrom about 90 seconds later.

Nash got a shot past Grubauer with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the first, but it clanged off the post.

NOTES: Djoos was hit in the face by the puck with about eight minutes remaining in the third period. He quickly got up and skated off the ice to get stitches. ... Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh played in his 500th career game. ... The Rangers announced at the start of the second period that Chris Kreider was out for the rest of the game. Vigneault said it was an upper-body injury and he would have more information Thursday. ... Vigneault got his 634th career win, tying Darryl Sutter for 11th place on the NHL list.


Capitals: Host the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.

Rangers: At the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night before returning to New York to face Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Monday at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.


Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP


More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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