NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers take a seven-game winning streak into the Christmas break.
They will need the rest after withstanding a frenetic third period to beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Tuesday night. Trailing 3-0, the Capitals fired 21 shots at Lundqvist in the final 20 minutes.
"It was perfect," Lundqvist deadpanned. "I have a lot of Christmas food here, so I needed a good workout in the third."
He certainly got it.
"When the game was on the line, Lundqvist was really good for them," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis each scored twice for the Rangers. Lundqvist finished with 30 saves in a game that matched two of the NHL's hottest teams in their final outing before the holiday break. Washington had won three in a row, picking up points in nine straight games (7-0-2).
Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard had two assists apiece for New York.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington.
It was the first meeting of the season between the Metropolitan Division rivals. The Rangers and Capitals are tied with 40 points in third place — the last guaranteed playoff spot in the division. New York has two games in hand on the Capitals.
Nash got the only goal of the opening period at 3:32, deflecting Zuccarello's shot past Braden Holtby. It came moments after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh won a 1-on-1 battle with Ovechkin, standing up the Washington star as he broke toward the net.
Ovechkin and linemate Nicklas Backstrom almost tied it later in the period when they had consecutive point-blank shots that Lundqvist denied.
Ovechkin was called for boarding Zuccarello 27 seconds into the second period, and the Rangers capitalized.
St. Louis got the goal at 1:03, converting a brilliant pass from Dan Boyle at the point. Boyle faked a shot before sending the puck to St. Louis, positioned below the right circle. He whipped a sharp-angle shot past Holtby to give New York a 2-0 lead.
The Capitals came out flying to start the third period, peppering Lundqvist with nine shots in the first 3 minutes.
He stood his ground, and got some breathing room when Nash, using Washington defenseman John Carlson as a screen, fired home his second goal at 5:12 for a 3-0 lead. It was his team-leading 22nd of the season.
Lundqvist lost his shutout bid when Kuznetsov scored 41 seconds later, a soft shot that Lundqvist missed as he tried to make a kick save.
The Capitals kept coming, pulling within one on Ovechkin's power-play goal at 10:58.
"We were frustrated a little bit with ourselves," Trotz said. "Between periods, I said, 'Let's take a deep breath here. We've got 20 minutes to see if we could reclaim this.' There was no quit in us. I liked our determination."
The momentum, at that point in Washington's favor, changed with a spate of Capitals penalties. Backstrom got a double-minor for high-sticking Brassard at 14:35. Jason Chimera at the same time picked up a faceoff-violation penalty, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 power play.
St. Louis cashed in, knocking in the rebound of Nash's shot after it hit the post at 16:12 to put the Rangers up 4-2.
And the winning streak continued.
"It's a great feeling in here," St. Louis said. "We've done a great job of going out there and earning it every day."
With each victory, the Rangers see emerging signs of the team that advanced to the Stanley Cup finals last spring.
"It's a great feeling to go into this break after playing really well these last couple of weeks," Lundqvist said. "We all feel we're getting closer to where we want to be."
NOTES: The teams don't meet again until March 11, but they play three times in the final month. ... Both teams resume play Saturday. Washington will be in Pittsburgh; New York hosts New Jersey. ... The New York City police honor guard presented the colors for the national anthem and received a prolonged ovation from the crowd.