Propelled by their recent offensive surge, the Washington Capitals appear to have put their early-season struggles behind them.
Keeping it going, however, isn't likely to be easy against the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, who has been very good lately.
The Capitals will try to win their fourth straight on Sunday night in the first meeting between the teams since the Rangers' seven-game victory in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals.
After averaging 2.3 goals per game during a 2-8-1 start, Washington (5-8-1) has totaled 15 while winning its last three.
"We had a talk and said the time is now,' center Jay Beagle said. "We have to start winning and stringing a streak of wins together to try and climb."
Eric Fehr scored twice to lead the Capitals to a 4-3 victory at Tampa Bay on Thursday. All three of his goals this season have come over the past two games.
"He looks like he's got really good jump,' coach Adam Oates said. "It's very noticeable out there. He's got a good stick. He's played better and better every game."
Troy Brouwer added his fourth goal in three games on Thursday, and helped get the streak started with a two-goal effort in a 5-0 win over Florida on Feb. 9.
After his five-game point streak was snapped against the Lightning, Alex Ovechkin looks to bounce back against the Rangers. He has eight goals and 15 points in his last 16 meetings, including the postseason.
The Capitals have gotten a big boost from their power play, leading the NHL with a 40.0 percent efficiency this month. They've converted 8 of 15 opportunities in the last six games.
Washington may have a difficult time maintaining that pace against the Rangers, who have killed each of their 12 short-handed situations over the last four games.
Lundqvist, who has allowed five goals during a personal three-game win streak, is 5-1-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average in his last six home games. He's expected to start after backing up Martin Biron in a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Lundqvist was outstanding in New York's playoff win over the Capitals last season, posting a 1.66 GAA in seven games.
Thursday's loss ended a three-game win streak for the Rangers (7-5-1), who are 5-1-1 in their last seven at Madison Square Garden.
"We had a number of guys struggle, but we got a point so we don't leave here naked," coach John Tortorella said.
"Do we have a lot of things to improve on? Yeah, but I'm not going to run them down because I thought we had some good minutes.'
Marian Gaborik, who leads the team with seven goals, also had a major impact on last season's playoff series with three goals and four assists.
After tallying five goals and five assists in his last five games against the Capitals while with Columbus, Rick Nash faces Washington for the first time as a Ranger.
Braden Holtby has been in net every minute during Washington's three-game run, compiling a 2.66 GAA, but he has a 4.92 mark in four road starts.
Holtby, however, has been stingy against New York with a 1.71 GAA in nine career starts - including the 2011-12 postseason.
The Associated Press News Service
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