With a chance to clinch a berth in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday night, the Rangers returned home from a four-game road trip out west with a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden. Despite the defeat New York's magic number to clinch a post-season berth is still one point, and the Blueshirts also remain four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Mats Zuccarello scored two goals in the loss for the Rangers, the third time this season he has scored a pair in the same game. Derick Brassard pick up an assist in his 400th NHL games, while Dominic Moore appeared in the 600th game of his NHL career.
Ottawa goaltender Robin Lehner turned in a big game outdueling his boyhood idol Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. Lehner stopped 41 of 43x Ranger shots, and made several huge saves in the third period including ones on Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, and Marc Staal. Lundqvist finished the night with 31 saves.
Despite holding a 16-12 shots advantage through 20 minutes of play, the Rangers skated off the ice after the first period trailing Ottawa 2-0 on goals by Mark Stone and Mike Zibanejad, and due in large part to some sensation play by Lehner. However Zuccarello beat Lehner twice in the second period--sandwiching an Ottawa goal by Jason Spezza--and the Rangers trailed by just one after two periods of play.
Both of Zuccarello's goals came off deflections in front after the popular Norwegian had also won battles for the puck along the boards. His first goal came at 5:25 of the second period when he chased a loose puck into the left wing corner and quickly sent a pass back to the point. As Zuccarello skated to the low slot, John Moore cranked up a high slap which was first deflected by Benoit Pouliot and then tipped off Zuccarello's stick in front and past Lehner to cut the Blueshirts deficit to 2-1.
Three minutes later Spezza scored off a wild scramble in Lundqvist's crease and the Rangers again were chasing a pair of goals on the scoreboard; but Zuccarello scored at 11:55, this time deflecting Staal's slap shot into the cage for his 19th goal of the season. It was Zuccarello who whipped the puck around the boards from right wing to left, setting up an open Staal to hammer a shot towards the net, just as Zuccarello positioned himself again in front of Lehner.
The Senators netminder, who allowed seven goals to the Rangers in a 8-4 Blueshirt victory up in Ottawa on March 18th, bounced back and turned in a series of big-time saves on Saturday night. He denied both Nash and Marty St. Louis on separate partial breakaways, made back-to-back huge stops on a Carl Hagelin wraparound and subsequent rebound attempt from in-tight, and a gem robbing Pouliot from point-blank range just six minutes into the game.