WASHINGTON (AP) Not playing their best hockey against an opponent full of desperation, the New York Rangers relied on a familiar recipe to move on in the NHL playoffs.

Artemi Panarin scored the go-ahead goal on the power play early in the third period, Igor Shesterkin made 23 saves and the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers finished off a sweep of the Washington Capitals with a 4-2 victory in Game 4 on Sunday night to advance to the second round.

“The things that we’ve done in the regular season over 82 games is something that we continue to do,” center Mika Zibanejad said. "We’ve been building toward this, and I still think we can be better, but a great, hard-fought series and it’s nice (to get) a win.”

Trade deadline pickup Jack Roslovic sealed it with an empty-netter with 51 seconds left, and the Rangers will next face either the Carolina Hurricanes or crosstown-rival New York Islanders with a spot in the Eastern Conference final at stake. Carolina leads that series 3-1.

“We have extra few days for rest, and it’s always good,” Shesterkin said. "That’s more time for practice and build our confidence and see who we will play against next round.”

They'll get that rest thanks to Panarin's goal with 16:39 left in regulation, 11 seconds after T.J. Oshie was penalized for high-sticking Vincent Trocheck, which helped them avoid overtime or a return to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday. They needed just four to vanquish the Capitals and become the first team to advance this spring.

“We’re happy,” Panarin said. "We’ll keep going. I can’t say we played bad. We played good, but I think we can play better.”

New York moves on thanks to another dominant performance from Trocheck, who was the best player on the ice all series. Trocheck long before drawing the crucial penalty scored on the power play and broke up a scoring chance by Alex Ovechkin, who was held off the scoresheet entirely through four games - the first time that has happened in a single postseason in the Capitals captain's 15 trips.

“I don’t know,” Ovechkin said after just five shots in four games. “I don’t have that kind of touches. I try to find a different way to put the puck in.”

But he was not Washington's only problem, and part of the lack of offense was Shesterkin, who several times sparked chants of “Igor! Igor!” from the many Rangers fans in attendance. He turned aside Dylan Strome 14 seconds after Kaapo Kakko scored in the first minute to put them ahead and later made back-to-back saves on Tom Wilson's point-blank chances on the doorstep.

“I thought he was excellent,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “When the game is hanging in the balance, he still comes across and he makes a huge save."

Trocheck, Shesterkin and MVP candidate Panarin leading a victory is nothing new, but Kakko contributing made him the 10th New York player to score a goal in the series. That came after Nick Jensen turned the puck over on his first shift back from a two-week injury absence, and Kakko beat Charlie Lindgren for a goal that could boost his confidence after a rough regular season.

Lindgren, who has not lacked self-belief, couldn't again play the hero despite stopping 19 of the 22 shots he faced. Youngsters Martin Fehervary and Hendrix Lapierre scored for Washington, which was visibly exhausted after expending so much energy just to make it in.

“This team just never gave up,” Strome said. “This team fights for every inch, and we fought to the very end. We put our lives on the line in this series and obviously came up short. They’re a great team.”


Rangers: Prepare to face the Hurricanes or Rangers in a series that cannot start until Thursday at the very earliest and likely after that.

Capitals: Go into another offseason of change with questions about the future of winger T.J. Oshie, among others.


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

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