WASHINGTON (AP) — New York's Cam Talbot and Washington's Philipp Grubauer, two backup goalies making it hard for their coaches to keep them on the bench, combined for 68 saves on Friday night.
Talbot came up one short.
Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist, and Eric Fehr scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:09 left to lift the Capitals over the Rangers 3-2.
Moments after New York defenseman Dan Girardi's drive hit the post, Fehr took a pass from Backstrom during 4-on-4 play, skated in, and beat Talbot from the right circle for his sixth goal.
"It was just a quick release that beat me," Talbot said. "It's (a save) I've got to make, especially in a situation like that where it's a tie game with five minutes to go and we're pressing for the win."
Mike Green added a goal, and Grubauer had 37 saves for Washington, which had dropped two straight before taking the finale of a three-game homestand.
"It's huge," Grubauer said. "Every win is, because I haven't played many games. Every win is a great feeling for me."
Grubauer improved to 5-1-1 in eight games since being called up to Washington.
"Right now, it's only been eight games, and goalies — like everybody — have their waves," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Right now it looks like he's playing with confidence, and he's giving the players confidence."
Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin scored for New York, which had won two straight. It was the Rangers' first game after a nine-game homestand.
"It's disappointing, obviously. I thought we played a pretty strong game," Girardi said. "That last (goal) is tough. I hit the post then they come right back down and score."
Talbot, making his third straight start in place of No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, stopped 31 shots in the opener of a five-game road trip. He came in with an 8-2 record and a 1.60 goals against average in 12 games, and won the final two games of the homestand.
Backstrom continued his impressive December and has 17 points in his last eight games. He began the night fourth in the NHL in points and third in assists,
"He's handling the puck with confidence, and he's making great plays," Fehr said. "It's what we expect of him, but it's pretty unbelievable to watch."
Hagelin tied the game with a short-handed goal 17 seconds into the third period. He took a feed from Ryan McDonagh, skated in alone on Grubauer, and scored with a backhanded shot.