Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Capitals 1

NEW YORK -- The Rangers continue to cruise through the competition after dispatching the struggling Washington Capitals 4-1 at Madison Square Garden Sunday night for their third straight win.

The Rangers have now won 9 of their last 12 games and 11 of their last 15 to improve to 27-21-3 on the season, good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and second in the Metropolitan Division.

Rick Nash, whose game has been resurgent in the past few weeks, tallied twice in the first period as the Rangers took a 3-0 lead. Shutdown pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh couldn’t hold Alex Ovechkin off the scoresheet -- he scored the Caps’ lone goal in the second -- but the Rangers held off any comeback attempt to hand the Caps their fifth straight loss.

Quick start: Nash is on quite a tear for the Rangers of late, recording his second multi-goal performance for the Blueshirts in the last eight games. Nash didn’t waste any time Sunday night, striking first just 1:10 into play. The Olympics-bound winger, who was named to Team Canada’s 2014 Sochi squad last week, intercepted Dmitry Orlov's pass at the blue line and raced in for a deft backhanded finish. He added his second goal of the period with a 5-on-3 power-play marker to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead less with 3:54 left in the first.

Step-ing up: The Rangers’ top guys have a good thing going lately, with Nash, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards combining for key contributions offensively. Stepan, who just recently snapped a 13-game goalless skid, potted his second in as many games. And Richards continues to produce at a point-per-game pace. The veteran center has four goals and six assists in the last nine games.

Leading man: With the Caps trailing 3-0 to start the second period, superstar forward Alex Ovechkin notched his league-leading 35th goal of the season. His 5-on-3 power-play goal, a one-timer from the left circle, was his first point against the Rangers this season. Though Ovechkin got the Caps on the board early in the middle frame, Rangers captain Ryan Callahan quickly reclaimed his team’s three-goal lead, burying a rebound on a shorthanded rush at 2:25.

Just saying: The San Jose Sharks had two scouts on hand to take in Sunday’s match. With trade talk expected to intensify in the coming weeks as the Olympic break roster freeze approaches, teams may be looking to make moves sooner rather than later. The Rangers and Sharks did business last trade deadline when the Blueshirts acquired coveted winger Ryane Clowe. The Rangers also had interest in veteran defenseman Dan Boyle and would likely still be intrigued by what the smooth-skating, puck-mover has to offer.