Rangers play 60-minute gem vs. Caps
Blueshirts dominate both ends of the ice in shutting out Washington 6-0
|Rangers forward Erik Christensen celebrates at the bench after picking up his career-high fourth point of the night with an assist on the Blueshirts' final goal of the game at 19:26 of the third period.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
With two of their most important players missing from the lineup Friday night due to injury, the Rangers played one of their best -- and most complete -- games of the season, defeating the Washington Capitals 6-0 at the Verizon Center.
The win was the Rangers’ second straight this week on the road, following their 4-3 overtime shootout win in Carolina on Tuesday, and was their 19th road victory of the season. Overall, they Rangers have won four of their past six games, and are now just one point out of sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Erik Christensen recorded a career-high four points, Derek Stepan and Vinny Prospal both had a goal and an assist, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Rangers won convincingly even with All-Star defenseman Marc Staal and star sniper Marian Gaborik sidelined with injuries.
The six-goal differential in the final score marked the first time since Jan. 20 that a Rangers’ game was not decided by either one or two goals, and it was quite similar to their 7-0 thrashing of the Caps back on Dec. 12 at Madison Square Garden.
“We played the way we wanted to right from the start,” said Stepan. “And then we finished it, too. It’s a big step forward for us, and we’re feeling pretty good.”
The Rangers quickly defused Washington’s “Rock the Red” home-ice advantage by scoring twice in the first period and twice more in the second to build a secure lead after 40 minutes of play.
|Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist plays the puck away from his crease during Friday night's 6-0 victory at Washington. Lundqvist stopped 35 shots for his NHL-leading eighth shutout of the season.
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Eminger, who had been scratched in nine of the previous ten games, was back in the lineup due to Staal’s absence. The goal was his second of the season, and first since Nov. 24 against Tampa Bay.
With one personal scoring drought ended, Christensen proceeded to end his own dry spell when he made it 2-0 at 14:47 of the opening period. Christensen slid into the low slot and converted a quick, nifty feed from Michael Sauer on right wing for his first goal in 14 games, dating back to Dec. 15. The goal also represented the first point Christensen had recorded since returning from his knee injury nine games ago.
“I went in on the forecheck and, for whatever reason, I just stooped and spun around in front of the net, and Mike Sauer just makes a terrific pass,” said Christensen, who had notched four three-point games previously in his career, but never before had a four-point game. “It was right on my tape, but I was so surprised by the pass that I almost didn’t react quickly enough. Fortunately I did, and it felt really good to score again.”
Christensen didn’t have to wait long for his next goal or point as he netted a power-play tally just 4:19 into the second period to up the Rangers’ lead to 3-0. The goal was as pretty a passing play as the Rangers have had in recent memory with Vinny Prospal finding Ryan Callahan in the slot, and Callahan whipping a backhand pass to right wing to a wide-open Christensen, who fired into the gaping cage for his eighth goal of the season.
“I’m one of those guys that once I get that first one, it’s like the adrenaline kicks in,” said Christensen. “And if I get one early, like tonight, I feel like I can go out and get five or six points. Once I got that first one I felt great, like the puck was following me around.”
The Rangers added their second power-play goal of the night with 2:08 remaining in the middle period. Stepan snared the rebound of a Michael Del Zotto shot off the back boards and shoveled it into the net before Neuvirth could bolt across his crease. The goal was Stepan’s 17th of the season, the sixth-most amongl NHL rookies.
“The last bunch of games have been one-goal games, which are emotionally tough,” said Stepan. “So for us to come out and have a big win with a lot of goals definitely boosts the guys’ confidence. It was great.”
|Rangers rookies Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan celebrate Stepan's 17th goal of the season, which put the Blueshirts up 4-0 af the second period.
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With Staal missing his first game since Feb. 17, 2008, the Rangers banded together and played strong team defense all night long. Rookie Ryan McDonagh took Staal’s spot on the top defensive pairing alongside Dan Girardi and did not look out of place in helping to shut down the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom.
“Sure, helping to shut down (Ovechkin) was key, but more importantly we got the win,” said McDonagh, who logged nearly 22 minutes of ice-time. “I think we’ve been playing well, but it was a matter of taking it up another notch at both ends of the ice, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Lundqvist also helped minimize the loss of Staal with extremely sharp play right from the first minute of the game when he smothered Ovechkin’s drive off a 2-on-1 rush. The shutout was Lundqvist’s league-leading eighth of the season.
“Hank made some great saves, and we can’t do this without him,” McDonagh said of Lundqvist. “That first save on Ovechkin really set the tone for the game, I think.”
The one downer for the visitors was that veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko -- back in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 19 following a shoulder injury and an appendectomy -- suffered an undisclosed injury early in the second period and did not return for the remainder of the game.
The Rangers will open up a three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon when they host the Lightning. That contest will be followed by home tilts against the Sabres on Tuesday and the Wild on Thursday.