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Capitals brace for suddenly shot-happy Rangers

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WASHINGTON — The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals renew a divisional rivalry Wednesday night when the New York Rangers visit Capital One Arena for the first of four meetings this season.

New York will be playing for the second straight night after Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Shattenkirk converted in the shootout and each had two assists for the Rangers (2-4-0). Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes scored in regulation and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves. New York capped a 2-1 homestand in which all three games were decided by one goal.

Coach David Quinn wanted the Rangers to shoot more and Tuesday they put 43 shots on goal.

“Obviously, if we’re going to score goals, we’ve got to get the puck to the net. We took a step forward tonight in that area,” Quinn said. “I thought we got pucks to the net and we went at it a little harder. … So, I thought that was a step in the right direction for us tonight.”

The Rangers tallied only their second power-play goal in 18 chances on the season

Quinn sat right wing Pavel Buchnevich in favor of left wing Cody McLeod.

“This guy’s a talented player and I think one of the things he and I have talked about is we just need more out of him consistently,” Quinn said about Buchnevich before the game. “He’s got an awful lot of talent and skill but that’s not going to get you a lot of production offensively if you don’t do the other things you need to do offensively.”

The Capitals (2-2-1) have lost two straight and scored two goals in the process.

With three days off between games, the Capitals went back to basics. During Sunday’s practice, coach Todd Reirden’s team worked on stick handling drills. At the end of Tuesday’s practice, they worked on faceoffs. The Capitals rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at 43.8.

“Yeah, there’s little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told NBCSportsWashington.com. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is going to be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The start of Sunday’s practice involved each Capital getting a puck and skating circles with it around the rink, working on their handling.

“It was a surprise. I don’t think anyone saw that coming,” defenseman Matt Niskanen told the Washington Post. “Some guys just have it, the puck-handling skills. Other guys have to work at it a lot harder or you lose it.”

The Capitals went 3-0-1 against the Rangers last season. All of the games were decided by two or fewer goals, and two of the four contests were decided in either overtime or a shootout.

Braden Holtby is 10-9-1 with a 2.42 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and one shutout against the Rangers. If Lundqvist goes back-to-back, he is 21-12-5, 2.66, .909 with four shutouts versus Washington.

Alex Ovechkin is tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie for the Capitals lead in goals with four. In his career, Ovechkin has scored 611 goals on 128 goaltenders. His most-frequent victim is Marc-Andre Fleury (23) with Lundqvist (22) next.

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