NEW YORK – After a slump in which they lost five of six games, the New York Rangers looked more like their early-season selves Sunday.
The Rangers had gone 1-4-1 in their past six games, but put together a solid 4-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and center Derick Brassard scored first-period power-play goals, and Brassard added an insurance goal midway through the third period, converting on a breakaway after a pass from McDonagh. Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves, allowing only a second-period goal by Ottawa defenseman Mark Methot.
Forward Jesper Fast scored into an empty net with 1:31 to play for the Rangers (18-7-3), who played like the team that went 13-1-1 in the 15 games before their six-game slump.
"They're a fast team, so if you have a lot of turnovers, you're going to have a tough night," Lundqvist said. "But I thought overall we played good and smart. It felt like the first couple of weeks of the season. We were back to making good decisions."
Coach Alain Vigneault credited the defense for allowing the Rangers to play at the fast tempo they wanted.
"A team like us that wants to play fast, wants to play quick, go north-south as quickly as possible, a lot of it is dictated by puck movement and that first, initial play you have to make," he said. "We need those guys on top of their games moving the puck, and when they do we're a good team."
Craig Anderson, making his 11th consecutive start, finished with 27 saves for Ottawa (14-8-5), which saw its two-game winning streak end. The Senators lost in regulation at the Garden for the first time in 10 games; they had been 8-0-1 since a 5-2 win by the Rangers on Oct. 3, 2009.
"We dug ourselves a bit of a hole," said Ottawa coach Dave Cameron, whose team was playing the second of back-to-back games after rallying to defeat the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. "We tried but we just weren't good enough today."
But Cameron wouldn't use the fact that his team was playing on consecutive nights against a well-rested opponent as an excuse.
"There's an energy drop when going back-to-back," he said. "We have to just do better."
Neither team generated much offense until Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad was sent off for an offensive-zone interference penalty at 7:16 of the first period. The Rangers capitalized when Keith Yandle controlled the puck along the left half-wall and slid a pass back to McDonagh, whose straightaway slap shot from a few feet inside the blue line went through traffic and past Anderson at 8:40. It was the fourth goal of the season for New York's captain and his first in 10 games.
Just over five minutes later, the Rangers converted a bench minor against the Senators into their second power-play goal. McDonagh took a wrist shot from nearly the same spot he scored from earlier; this one was tipped by Brassard past a defenseless Anderson at 13:47.
"We're just trying to move the puck around," Brassard said. "We got some good screens in front of the net, and that's what we're trying to do every time."
Lundqvist preserved the two-goal lead in the final 30 seconds when he robbed Zibanejad twice and Zack Smith once in a five-second span during a scramble at the left post.
Ottawa failed to score on a power play early in the second period but cut the Rangers' lead in half at 6:01 when Methot's slap shot from the left point hit the stick of New York defenseman Marc Staal and deflected past Lundqvist. It was Methot's second goal of the season.
Lundqvist used his glove to rob rookie Dave Dziurzynski on a snap shot from the slot with 57 seconds remaining in the second period to preserve the Rangers' 2-1 lead.
The Rangers allowed Ottawa only two shots on goal in the first half of the third period before Brassard picked up McDonagh's bouncing breakout pass and took a slap shot from the slot that beat Anderson at 10:08 for his ninth of the season.
"They got a lucky bounce on that Hail Mary they threw up the middle that bounced over [defenseman Chris Wideman]," Methot said. "These things happen. I thought, given that we were on a back-to-back, that we had a decent amount of jump for most of the game. We just did not get a lot of favorable bounces."
Vigneault was pleased with the way his team shut down the speedy Senators in the final period.
"In the third we played smart, got pucks deep and we able to score the third [goal], and that gave us a little bit of breathing room," he said.
The Rangers gave up only one more shot after Brassard's second goal, and McDonagh agreed that the Rangers' performance was much sharper than in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday,. He felt the two days off between games made a difference.
"It was just great to see us come off a couple of days' rest, where we really needed it, and really come out rejuvenated," he said. "[We had] speed and [we were] fast and competing on the ice."
Ottawa center Kyle Turris, who left the win against the Islanders with a leg injury and was a game-time decision, played 20:31, had two shots on goal and was minus-2. Defenseman Erik Karlsson led the Senators with four shots on goal and played 33:15, one night after playing 32:41 of ice time against the Islanders.