Penalty killers key Rangers’ shutout of Senators
NEW YORK — The New York Rangers delivered a defensive clinic against one of the NHL’s most notoriously stingy teams.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist posted a shutout by stopping just 20 shots, and the Rangers smothered the Ottawa Senators during a crucial five-minute power play in the third period of a 3-0 win on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
New York halted a two-game losing streak.
With the Rangers leading 2-0 midway through the third period, New York defenseman Brendan Smith was assessed a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for an interference infraction that left Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki unconscious.
The Rangers allowed just one shot on net during the major penalty and blocked five other attempts.
About five minutes later, Mika Zibanejad pumped a shot from his own blue line into an empty net to seal the victory for the Rangers (10-9-2).
“Just not allowing them to get to their setup as often,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said when asked what worked on the penalty kill. “Trying to be aggressive at the right times, finding guys alone on an island, try to jump him, take away his time there.
“I think the big thing is we kept fresh legs. When we got a chance to clear, we did. We never got stuck out there too long.”
New York forward Mats Zuccarello added, “I think we played great. (Lundqvist) was good, and the D-men were blocking shots. Everyone was sacrificing themselves. I think a big reason we won today was our PK was great.”
The Senators (8-5-6) had a similar point of view, lamenting their struggling power play that went 0 of 3 Sunday and has failed to score in 11 chances during the past three games, all losses.
“As of right now, it’s not going the way we want to,” Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. “It’s something we know and that we’re trying to figure out. We’re going to have to find a way here to sort that out as soon as possible.”
Lundqvist barely had to break a sweat to post his second shutout of the season, although he made a big stop on Derick Brassard early in the third period. That save preceded Michael Grabner’s ninth goal of the season at 4:52, a tally that gave the Rangers a two-goal cushion.
With the game scoreless in the first period, Lundqvist made an acrobatic save on Mike Hoffman, stacking the pads to deny the chance at his right post.
“That’s old school right there,” Lundqvist said of the pad stack. “I felt like in that situation there was a long to go (to his right) so that’s why I decided to go two-pad stack there, and it worked out.”
There wasn’t much action besides that save on Hoffman until Kevin Hayes opened the scoring at 4:46 of the second period. Hayes took a pass from Jesper Fast and wristed a shot from the left faceoff circle over the catching glove of Craig Anderson, who stopped 24 shots in a losing effort.
“This is a tough one for us,” Anderson said. “They played a pretty solid game and really stifled our offense. We’ve got some really good offensive players, and I think they just played a solid five-man defensive game and didn’t allow us to get our momentum going.”
The Rangers are 8-3-0 since starting the season 2-6-2. After visiting the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night, they will play four straight games at home, where they have won sixth straight.
New York is still searching for more consistency — the Rangers allowed 85 shots in their past two games before locking down the Senators on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a tight race all the way to the end,” Lundqvist said. “The deciding factor is going to be consistency, what teams can be consistent enough to get enough points.
“The last two weeks, you look at our record, we’re right there. We’re pretty close to where we want to be and how we want to play.
“We’re moving in the right direction.”
NOTES: Senators coach Guy Boucher confirmed after the game that D Mark Borowiecki sustained a concussion. ... After using 11 forwards and seven defensemen the previous four games, the Senators scratched D Ben Harpur and inserted LW Nick Paul into the lineup. ... Since being acquired in a trade, C Matt Duchene has zero points in five games as a member of the Senators. ... Rangers C David Desharnais was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. ... The Rangers also scratched D Steven Kampfer.