NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals appear to be rounding into form as the playoffs approach, but they will be looking to further refine their game Monday night against the New York Rangers in a Metropolitan Division battle at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams won Saturday night. The visiting Capitals ran their winning streak to three straight games by beating the Montreal Canadiens 6-4 and the host Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The winning streak has allowed the Capitals (44-24-7) to keep the Pittsburgh Penguins at bay in the race for the Metropolitan Division championship. Washington is three points ahead of Pittsburgh and has one game in hand on the Penguins.
In order to stay atop the Metro, though, the Capitals need to play with more urgency, coach Barry Trotz said, especially after a rest day. The game Monday will be the fifth straight after an off-day for Washington, which has trailed in two of the games and frittered away parts of three- and four-goal leads against Montreal on Saturday.
"We've just got to be better," Trotz told the team's website. "Our starts have to be better. After a day off, we tend to not come out very well. That's just a tendency of our group. We've at least got to be ramped up a little bit and play a little more emotional. When we have a little bite to our game, we play much better."
The Rangers (33-34-8) are all but officially eliminated from playoff contention -- their "tragic number" is three points -- but a rebuilding team has been revitalized by a spate of youngsters thrust into pivotal roles.
New York has gone 5-4-2 in March, during which it has beaten Pittsburgh as well as handed damaging losses to two fringe wild-card contenders, the Calgary Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes.