NEW YORK -- It was not lost on New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh that he had a big impact on a nationally televised game on Hockey Day in America on Sunday.
McDonagh scored his third goal of the season in a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden, the game that kicked off NBC's day-long coverage of the event.
"For sure it does [mean something]," said McDonagh, a Minnesota native. "Hockey is growing pretty good in the States. You see the World Junior team doing well and you think of the young kids making such an impact at the NHL level at such a young age. It's pretty tremendous to see the growth of the sport in our country. It should be exciting. I'm sure there were a lot of kids watching today."
McDonagh, who also had five blocked shots and four shots on goal, no doubt turned some of those young heads with his goal at 7:49 of the first period.
Video: WSH@NYR: McDonagh snipes top-shelf goal in the 1st
He led the rush into the Capitals zone, carrying the puck into the left faceoff circle before sending a low shot toward the net that bounced off of goalie Philipp Grubauer's right pad.
Rick Nash drove toward the net, and the rebound popped out in front. McDonagh followed the puck, got it back and stick-handled through Washington center Nicklas Backstrom's skates into the slot. He got between the circles and beat Grubauer with a wrist shot over his glove to give New York a 1-0 lead.
"It's always great to have a good start, but you have to get something out of it, too," McDonagh said. "It's a real good feeling for me especially having not had a lot of goals this year. Hopefully it gets me some confidence to continue to jump up and make some plays."
McDonagh said several Rangers were talking about the magnitude of the game, the opponent, the impact of the celebration of Hockey Day in America and the fact that they were playing on NBC during practice Saturday.
"Oh yeah," he said. "We were feeling it."
That's not necessarily surprising when you consider the makeup of the Rangers roster.
McDonagh is one of eight Americans on the roster, seven of whom played Sunday. The Capitals had six Americans in their lineup.
Massachusetts native Chris Kreider made the key play on the winning goal, taking the puck to the net off of a faceoff win by center Mika Zibanejad before finding Mats Zuccarello, who scored.
In addition, Minnesota native Derek Stepan had an assist on McDonagh's goal.
"Ever since I've gotten here I feel like we have had a lot [of American players]," McDonagh said. "Maybe it's a coincidence or maybe not, but we've got a lot of those young players like [Kevin] Hayes, [J.T.] Miller and Kreider who are contributing huge for us. It's also great to see Brady [Skjei] doing it too. A lot of Americans. It's a fun group."
He said they all could feel the energy of a youthful crowd at the Garden as soon as the puck dropped Sunday.
"A lot of kids here," McDonagh said.
They saw an American make an impact on Hockey Day in America, a day that matters to McDonagh because it gives him a chance to do just that.
"It's fun to be part of this day," McDonagh said. "It's fun to play in these games."