Rangers eliminated from playoff contention; Capitals gain in East race

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NEW YORK — The New York Rangers were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Monday, losing 6-3 against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers (26-21-6) have lost three games in a row since going 8-2-1 from April 9-27. They have three games remaining.

Alex Ovechkin played one shift before leaving his return from injury for the Capitals (33-14-5), who won for the first time in three games. Daniel Sprong scored his fifth goal in five games with Washington, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway each had a goal and an assist, and Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves.

The Capitals have qualified for the playoffs in the MassMutual East Division.

Mika Zibanejad scored two goals, and Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves for the Rangers. Artemi Panarin (two assists) didn’t return for the third period because of a lower-body injury.

Dowd gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 14:12 of the first period, and Conor Sheary scored 1:32 later to make it 2-0.

Zibanejad scored at 18:00 to make it 2-1. He tied the game 2-2 at 2:30 of the second period with a power-play goal, and Kaapo Kakko scored on a 2-on-1 with Alexis Lafreniere at 4:35 to give New York a 3-2 lead.

Hathaway tied it 3-3 at 18:30.

Sprong scored off a defensive-zone turnover by the Rangers to make it 4-3 at 4:37 of the third period. Nicklas Backstrom pushed it to 5-3 at 14:31, and Wilson scored an empty-net goal at 18:34 for the 6-3 final.

Washington started the game with 17 skaters because Evgeny Kuznetsov (team discipline), T.J. Oshie (personal/family reasons) and Justin Schultz (lower body) were unavailable. Ilya Samsonov (team discipline) also was scratched.

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