Rangers to play Capitals in 1st round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

The New York Rangers will play the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Rangers (55-23-4) finished first in the Metropolitan Division and won the Presidents’ Trophy, setting team records for wins (55) and points (114). The Capitals (40-31-11) clinched a playoff berth as the second wild card from the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

“Significant challenge,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “Best team in the NHL, so we know we have our hands full.”

The playoffs begin Saturday.

New York is in the playoffs for the third straight season; the Capitals are back after missing last season, which ended an eight-year run.

This is the 10th time the Rangers and Capitals will play in the playoffs, and the first since 2015. New York has prevailed in five of the previous nine series, including the past three (2015 second round, 2013 first round, 2012 second round), which all went seven games.

The Rangers and Capitals split four games in the regular season, with the home team winning every game. New York won at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27 (5-1) and Jan. 14 (2-1). Washington won at Capital One Arena on Dec. 9 (4-0) and Jan. 13 (3-2).

Artemi Panarin led New York in scoring with 120 points (49 goals, 71 assists). Vincent Trocheck was second on the Rangers with 77 points (25 goals, 52 assists), and Chris Kreider was second in goals with 39. Adam Fox led their defensemen in goals (17), assists (56) and points (73).

Igor Shesterkin went 36-17-2 with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and four shutouts in 55 games. Jonathan Quick was 18-6-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .911 save percentage in 27 games (26 starts).

Panarin had two goals and an assist in four games against Washington. K’Andre Miller and Fox, both defensemen, also had two goals and an assist against the Capitals.

Shesterkin started three of the four games, going 2-1-0 and allowing six goals on 81 shots (.926 save percentage).

Alex Ovechkin led the Capitals with 31 goals, his NHL record 18th season scoring at least 30. Dylan Strome led Washington with 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists), and John Carlson led with 42 assists. Carlson also led all Capitals defensemen with 10 goals and 52 points.

Charlie Lindgren went 25-16-7 with six shutouts, a 2.67 GAA and .911 save percentage in 50 games (48 starts). Darcy Kuemper was 13-14-3 with a 3.31 GAA and .890 save percentage in 33 games (30 starts).

T.J. Oshie had two goals for Washington in three games against New York. Anthony Mantha had three goals in four games, but the Capitals traded him to the Vegas Golden Knights on March 5. Ovechkin did not have a point in two games against the Rangers.

“This time of year is a tough test no matter what,” Oshie said. “You can look at any year. Florida last year (reaching the Cup Final), plenty of different scenarios. So, we need to focus on us. That’s what we’ve been doing no matter who the opponent is, and we’ll do our due diligence on their personnel and their systems, but when it comes down to it, if we play our style of hockey, we’re confident we’ll get wins.”

Lindgren started three of the four games against New York and went 2-1-0 with four goals against on 89 shots (.955).

Lindgren’s brother, Ryan, is a Rangers defenseman.

“I’m really excited,” Charlie Lindgren said. “It’s going to be a fun family affair, obviously. I know my brother’s looking forward to it. My parents, I’m sure their stress levels are going to be pretty high, but obviously so excited that our journey as a team, we’re not done yet. We get to go into the dance and go continue to play hockey.”

Ovechkin has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 33 career playoff games against the Rangers.

New York went 26-7-1 in its final 34 games. Washington won four of its last five games to clinch a playoff berth.

The Rangers haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1994 and haven’t reached the Stanley Cup Final since 2014. The Capitals captured their only Stanley Cup championship in 2018.