Lundqvist made 32 saves, Kevin Hayes snapped a tie late in the first period, and the Rangers capitalized on every Washington mistake to beat the Capitals 5-2 on Tuesday night in their first game since New York defeated Washington in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring.
"It's good to know we can win without playing our best," Lundqvist said after the Rangers extended their points streak to seven games (5-0-2). "We're still, I think, improving as a team, which is great. I talked about it last week: It's more important now to win games than to play perfect."
This was certainly not a perfect game for the Rangers. They were outshot 34-21, including 14-2 in the second period. However, both New York shots found the net.
"We're not jumping in the air right now," said Derick Brassard, who had a goal and an assist. "We are aware we beat a pretty good team, but at the same time we know we didn't play our best hockey."
"We made lots of mistakes and it costs us goals and we didn't use our chances," said Ovechkin, who was stopped twice by Lundqvist on point-blank shots.
Unlike the tight-checking playoffs, this game was wide open and New York made the most of its chances, scoring on four of its first 11 shots.
Washington didn't help goalie Braden Holtby, turning the puck over on three of the first four goals.
The one goal that didn't come off a turnover was Hayes' with 2:14 left in the first period. Lindberg sent a pass to Hayes and the center unleashed a shot from the left circle that went off Holtby's glove for a 2-1 lead.
New York broke it open early in the second period, shortly after a penalty to Dan Girardi expired.
Ovechkin could not control a pass in the Rangers zone and Brassard led an odd-man rush up the ice. Klein took his drop pass and beat Holtby for a 3-1 lead at 1:53.
Johansson was stripped in his own zone by Mats Zuccarello. He sent a pass to Brassard, who tried to find a wide-open Rick Nash at the side of the net. Johansson dove to try to block the pass and it hit off his stick into the net at 6:59.
It was a 4-1 lead and the crowd at Madison Square Garden chanted, "Holt-by, Holt-by!"
"They got the timely save and the timely goal, and we didn't get the timely save and the timely goal," Washington coach Barry Trotz said.
Johansson cut the margin to two, tipping in Karl Alzner's shot with 1:07 left in the period.
Washington put pressure on early in the third, but Lundqvist stood tall, making a phenomenal pad save on Ovechkin as he streaked across the crease. Lundqvist came 5 feet out of his net in the second period to stop the Russian star coming in from the point.
Lindberg gave New York an early lead off a scramble in front. Hayes started the play, forcing a turnover.
NOTES: The game was Lundqvist's 630th with the Rangers, moving him into sole possession of seventh place in career appearances for one team among NHL goalies. He was tied with Turk Broda of Toronto. ... Hayes has a point in four of his last five games (two goals, three assists). ... Ovechkin has points in nine of his 10 games this season. ... Girardi scored a fraction of a second after the second period ended. No goal. ... This was the first of five games between the teams.