WASHINGTON — New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot found himself in a difficult spot, facing a 5-on-3 power play with two of the NHL’s top three scorers on the ice for the Washington Capitals.
With a flick of the wrist March 11, Talbot came through with a tough-as-can-be stop, helping the Rangers move atop the Metropolitan Division with a 3-1 victory over Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and the rest of the Capitals.
Ovechkin scored his 45th goal and 21st on a power play — both best in the NHL — but otherwise was quieted by the Rangers.
Of Talbot’s 28 saves, the most spectacular was his glove grab early in the second period of a close-in shot from Backstrom during a scoreless two-man advantage for Washington that lasted 78 seconds. Talbot snatched the puck right at the goal line. The play was reviewed and the original ruling of no-goal stood.
“I just kind of instinctively reached back, and luckily, it ended up in my glove,” said Talbot, who is 4-0-1 in his past five games and 12-2-3 since No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist went out with a neck injury. “To take away their momentum on their power play, which they feed off so much, was a big momentum boost for us, that’s for sure.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz agreed.
“Anytime you’re 5-on-3 for a minute-plus, and you don’t score, and (they) get a big save from (their) goaltender,” Trotz said, “it lifts their bench.”
Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin and J.T. Miller each scored for New York. Backstrom, who entered the day tied with Ovechkin for No. 2 in the league in points, was held scoreless.
Most of the postgame chatter was about Talbot.
“He made four brilliant saves that were Grade-A and kept us right there,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, “and we were able to pull it off.”
A night after a 2-1 victory at the New York Islanders, the Rangers moved a point ahead of their city rivals to take over first place with exactly a month left in the regular season.
No club in the NHL has more points than the Rangers’ 91. “They’ve got the ‘mojo’ going right now,” Washington’s Matt Niskanen said.
The Rangers were on the second half of a back-to-back during a season-long five-game road trip and the Capitals have been resting since March 7 during a season-long five-game homestand. Still, the visitors looked much more active and fresh.
New York outshot Washington 24-13 through the first two periods, including 12-4 in the second.
“I felt pretty good, actually,” Talbot said. “It took a little bit for my legs to get into it there. Once I made a few saves, I was able to settle down and just tried to not do too much and try to save my energy.”
The Capitals were without two of their top five defensemen, Brooks Orpik (who missed his first game all season with a lower-body injury) and Mike Green (upper-body injury). They were forced to use youngsters Nate Schmidt and Cameron Schilling, instead.
“I don’t think anyone looked out of place,” Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said.
But the Capitals made a couple of mistakes — including defenseman John Carlson’s intercepted pass that set up St. Louis’ clincher with 2 1/2 minutes remaining — and that was enough to make the difference.
Well, that — and Talbot’s “massive save,” as New York’s Marc Staal called it.
(HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer)