By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan scored in span of 41 seconds midway through the second period as the Rangers skated to a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center. The win was the Rangers' fifth in their last six games, and started their four-game road trip on the right foot.
Martin Biron made his fourth start of the season in goal for the Rangers and stopped 28 of 29 shots to up his record to 2-1-1. Derek Stepan also scored a goal, and Ryan McDonagh contributed two assists to go along with a monster defensive effort, for the visitors who are now 13-9-2 with 28 points at the halfway point of this truncated 48-game season.
The Rangers turned the game decidedly in their favor over a 41 second span midway through the second period, and it was Boyle, an unlikely hero considering he was scratched the previous game and who had not scored yet this season, who got it all going. After a strong shift in the offensive zone in which he just missed moments earlier on a stuff attempt, Boyle took a handoff from McDonagh in the left circle and slapped a low hard shot far side past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 10:53.
The reaction from Boyle, and from the Rangers bench, was both immediate and explosive. The popular Boyle had finally scored a goal---in his 20th game played this season---and the sense of relief was obvious. Not counting his goals in last spring's playoffs, Boyle had last scored a regular-season goal in the 2011-12 season finale against the Caps at Madison Square Garden last April the 7th.
As Boyle was rifling the puck past Holtby during a delayed penalty call, officials caught Alex Ovechkin holding Callahan in front, and the Rangers were awarded a power play despite a long argument from Washington's head coach Adam Oates. 41 seconds later Callahan deflected Rick Nash's right wing show past Holtby for his eighth goal---and team-leading fifth on the power play---pushing the Rangers lead to 3-1.
Nash extended his point-scoring streak to ten straight games with the assist on Callahan's goal, and Oates pulled Holtby from the game, replacing him with Michal Neuvirth. Holtby faced 19 shots and made 16 saves in 31:34.
That 3-1 lead held up into the third period only due to some solid penalty killing work by the Blueshirts. Boyle took a holding penalty at 17:21 and after a big stop by Biron, Darroll Powe was penalized for tripping at 18:50. Facing 31 seconds of a two-man disadvantage, John Tortorella deployed Callahan, McDonagh, and Dan Girardi on to the ice, and the Rangers killed it off, with Biron facing just one shot while Callahan blocked one shot with a dive and made the final clear down the ice.
Brad Richards buried a rebound of Carl Hagelin's spinning shot with 1:12 to play to boost the Rangers to a 4-1 lead. Hagelin finished with two assists in the game as did Nash, who also picked up a helper on Richards' second goal in as many games.
After surrendering an early goal to quickly fall behind 1-0, the Rangers were able to swing momentum back to their side, due in large part to their physical play. After a series of bone-jarring hits from Micheal Haley, Steve Eminger, and Callahan midway through the period, Stepan was able to score the equalizer with 8:29 to play in the first period. And from there the Rangers largely dominated play with quality scoring chances from Callahan and Girardi among those that tested Holtby as the Rangers ended up outshooting Washington 12-8 in the opening stanza.
Stepan scored off a 3-on-2 rush when he accepted a Marian Gaborik pass on left wing and carried the puck deep to the goal line before banking the puck off the back of Holtby's skate and over the goal line for his sixth goal of the season. Holtby had been a bit out of position after falling for a Gaborik fake right before the Rangers winger dished the puck to the onrushing Stepan, who has registered seven points in his last six games.
Rookie defenseman Steve Oleksy scored his first NHL goal just 2:16 into the game to give the Caps a quick 1-0 lead. After Biron's clearing attempt was knocked down along the right wing boards, Washington's Jason Chimera worked the puck back to Oleksy on the right point. Oleksy floated a long shot past Biron to the stick side with Biron seemingly affected by the mayhem to his left as McDonagh battled the Caps Joel Ward.
Stu Bickel was scratched to make room for Boyle in the lineup, while Roman Hamrlik also was scratched as Tortorella said the veteran defenseman needs to get in better playing shape. Matt Gilroy replaced Hamrlik on the Rangers blueline.