The Rangers erupted for four goals in the second period powering a critical 8-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre, as Henrik Lundqvist passed Mike Richter to become the franchise's all-time winningest goaltender with his 302nd career victory.
Lundqvist allowed two goals on the first six shots he faced, but followed with several game-turning saves bridging the first and second periods, to backstop the come-from-behind win. He finished with 35 saves, including 16 in the second period when New York outscored Ottawa 4-0.
"It's an incredible feeling, a proud feeling," Lundqvist said about breaking the Rangers all-time wins record. "Being up there with those guys, the great names that have played for this organization--and this franchise has been around for so long--it's kind of surreal when you think about it, but at the same time I am going to keep going obviously. I have a lot of years left to keep winning. It's been a great ride, so far."
Six different Rangers scored goals on Tuesday, 48 hours after being blanked by San Jose 1-0 at Madison Square Garden Sunday. Three of the six goals were unassisted; and Derick Brassard finished the night with two goals and one assist, snapping an eight-game point-less stretch. Rick Nash also scored twice, and Mats Zuccarello picked up a pair of assists.
"Two points, that's what we needed," Nash said after the game. "We were desperate. We got a lot of bounces, so it was a good night; but I think in saying that we have to tighten up defensively, too."
Trailing 2-1 after one period of play, the Rangers relied on Lundqvist early in the second to keep the deficit at one. First he stoned Mika Zibanejad point-blank in the opening minutes of the period, and shortly thereafter excelled with three rapid-fire saves from in-close.
Lundqvist was rewarded when Brassard scored his first of the game at 8:56, tying the contest, 2-2. Brassard was the beneficiary of some gritty work behind the net--and a slick pass--by Carl Hagelin. He buried his shot from five out to the side of the net and the Rangers had tied the score for the second time in the game. Nash's shorthanded goal 8:02 into the first period had offset Mike Hoffman's game -opening score 65 seconds earlier.
"I thought Henrik played really well against San Jose, so tonight to score eight goals for him probably was a relief for him," said Brassard. "I thought he really came up big for us early in that second period when it was 2-1, even in the first period, too. He's been really good all season, so it feels good to get these goals for him."
The Rangers secured their first lead of the night at 15:48 when Benoit Pouliot intercepted an Ottawa pass in front of the Senators net and followed by roofing his 12th goal over the glove of goaltender Robin Lehner to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage. Nearly three minutes later--at 18:44--Lehner allowed a soft goal off the rush on left wing to John Moore and the Rangers were up 4-2. Then with 15.3 seconds left in the second period Ryan McDonagh's left-point shot was deflected by two Senators in front and into the cage, and the fourth Rangers goal of the period provided a three-goal cushion.
Originally the goal was credited to Marty St. Louis, and would have been his first as a Ranger--and 30th overall this year--but it was later credited correctly to McDonagh, his 12th.
"I think the second period we really took over," explained Brassard. "I thought we had a good first period, but we were down in the score, and we found a way to score some goals in the second. I think that's where we took over."
The first seven minutes of the third period was a wild ride as both teams scored twice. Milan Michalek cut into the Rangers lead just 87 seconds into the period, but Derek Stepan netted his 13th just one minute 13 seconds later against Nathan Lawson, who replaced Lehner to start the third period. Brassard crashed the net to convert a Zuccarello pass for his second of the game and 15th of the season at 4:45 to make it 7-3, before Bobby Ryan's team-high 23rd brought Ottawa back to within three at the 7:11 mark of the third period.
Nash scored into the empty net with 2:30 to play, potting his team-high 22nd goal, to close out the scoring.
When all was said and done the Rangers had set a season high for goals--they had scored seven goals twice previously, had moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division thanks to the two points earned, and Lundqvist was sitting alone at the top of the team's record book, surpassing Rangers legend Mike Richter in the process.
"It was a weird game," Lundqvist said. "Just had to battle through it. It was a battle for everyone, just a weird game, especially in the third period. I'm just happy it's over, and I'm glad we got the win."
With the victory the Rangers passed the Columbus Blue Jackets in the division standings. They will skate in Columbus in their next game Friday night.