New York Rangers\' Sean Avery (16) is checked by Ottawa Senators\' Chris Neil (25) during third period NHL hockey action in Ottawa Friday March 4, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Fred Chartrand
OTTAWA - The New York Rangers stopped their free fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but Henrik Lundqvist says they need to keep focused if they want to keep in their place in the top eight.
Lundqvist made 28 saves as the Rangers helped their playoff cause with a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Friday night.
Vaclav Prospal, Mats Zuccarello, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan scored for the Rangers, who ended a three-game losing streak.
Sergei Gonchar scored the lone Ottawa goal. Craig Anderson, making his sixth straight start for the Senators, stopped 22 shots.
"Our focus right now is just to make it," said Lundqvist. "We're not trying to get room between eighth and ninth, we just want to make it. It’s going to be a tight race and, who knows, we might be outside."
The win moved the Rangers (34-29-4) into seventh place in the East, one point ahead of Carolina, which lost 5-2 to Chicago. The Rangers also moved four points clear of ninth-place Buffalo.
"I think everybody's aware of how tight it is and how serious the situation is," added Lundqvist. "But we can't get nervous or anything, we just have to see it as a great challenge. It's still in our hands, we just have to do our job."
Both teams had played Thursday night and showed signs of fatigue throughout the game, but in the end it was Ottawa’s defensive breakdowns that were the difference.
"We made about three, four mistakes and they capitalized on them," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "We just weren’t sharp around the net and obviously they have a pretty good goaltender back there."
The Rangers opened the scoring midway through the first as Prospal grabbed the puck behind the net and let a quick shot go from the side boards. The puck was behind Anderson before he even reacted.
New York scored two goals just 12 seconds apart early in the second to take a 3-0 lead.
"It's been tough for us to find those second and third goals," said Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky. "We found a way to get it tonight and it just gives us a boost considering how the games have been going for us lately."
Anderson was unable to get back into position after making a save as Zuccarello picked up the puck and lifted it into a wide open net.
The Rangers won the ensuing faceoff and Ottawa’s Filip Kuba was unable to stop Anisimov who skated in alone and beat Anderson.
Coming into the game the Rangers had lost three straight at home, but despite the losses didn’t really feel like they were playing that poorly.
"Unfortunately we haven’t been getting the results we wanted to, but I think we've been playing the way we wanted to, but just haven’t been scoring goals and getting the results," said Dubinsky. "Obviously if that’s the case we’ve got to tighten a few things defensively, but hopefully if we keep working hard we’re going to get some bounces."
Ottawa (22-34-9) did have chances, but luck was not on their side. Erik Karlsson hit the crossbar with seconds remaining in the second period.
The Senators had been playing well of late and while the result might not reflect the effort the Senators still believe they played a solid game.
“Unfortunately they got that early one, but I was proud of the way we battled back,”said Ottawa’s Nick Foligno.“We just couldn’t find a way past Lundqvist tonight.”
The Rangers made it 4-0 in the opening minutes of the third as neither Sergei Gonchar nor Karlsson could stop Stepan who beat Anderson glove side.
The Senators broke Lundqvist’s shutout bid with a power-play goal as Gonchar scored from the blue-line. Lundqvist had little chance as Chris Neil set-up a perfect screen.
Notes: The Senators were without RW Daniel Alfredsson (back, indefinite), C Peter Regin (shoulder, indefinite), LW Milan Michalek (lower body, indefinite), G Pascal Leclaire (lower body, indefinite), and D Matt Carkner (knee, indefinite). The Rangers were without G Martin Biron (collarbone, out indefinitely), RW Derek Boogaard (concussion, out indefinitely), C Chris Drury (knee, six weeks), RW Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder), LW Alex Frolov (knee, out for season), RW Marian Gaborik (concussion, out indefinitely). D Ryan McDonagh was a healthy scratch.