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Rangers pummel Caps at MSG

by Dave Lozo /
NEW YORK -- Selecting one standout moment or player after the New York Rangers dismantled the Washington Capitals 7-0 on Sunday was like being a kid in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and being forced to pick just one type of candy.

Was it the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who made 31 saves to tie Boston's Tim Thomas for the League lead in shutouts with five after letting in a bad goal that cost the Rangers a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday?

Perhaps it was Brandon Dubinsky dropping Caps superstar Alex Ovechkin in a fight at center ice that had the fans at Madison Square Garden cheering louder than they had all season?

Or how about the three-goal onslaught during the first 4:30 of the second period engineered by Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik and Dubinsky that broke open a tight game with one the League's best teams?

As sweet as all that was for the Rangers, Dubinsky let it be known he wasn't taking any added joy in such a lopsided victory against a Stanley Cup contender. He instead served notice that there was more than one elite team on the ice Sunday.

"We want to be the team that somebody else is talking about, rather than talking about how good they are," said Dubinsky, who added an assist to his team-leading 14th goal. "I think that we feel that we're a good team, we're an elite team in this conference. We just have to continue to work hard and create our identity.

"We obviously don't have the offensive firepower that other teams do in our conference, but we'll compete and we're willing to outwork anybody in this League."

One look at the standings backs up Dubinsky's claim that the Rangers are one of the best.

With 37 points, the Rangers are seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and six behind the Philadelphia Flyers, the top two teams in the Atlantic Division. But the Rangers have the sixth-most points in the League and have achieved it through hard work and the willingness to grind, two things that are becoming a trademark of this team.

That type of effort has resulted in the Rangers going 8-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games this season.

"That's a team effort, tonight and through these back-to-backs," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Our team has played well this year, period. We've had some ups and downs, but we are on the right road with our youth and how we're approaching it mentally. It's up to us to try to stay with it.

"It's a long year, but we're going down the right road here. Everybody. Not just one player."

Through the first 18 minutes, it looked as though the Caps and Rangers were going battle tooth and nail. Brandon Prust finally opened the scoring with 2:03 remaining when his shot from the side of the net deflected of the stick of Caps defenseman Tom Poti and past goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who allowed all seven goals on 20 shots.

Anisimov, who drew high praise from Tortorella afterward, scored a beauty of a goal 59 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0. In a 1-on-1 rush up the ice, Anisimov fired a wrister through the legs of Caps defenseman Scott Hannan and over Varlamov's catching glove.

Hannan, who was acquired by the Caps on Nov. 30 in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, is now 0-6 with his new club. The six-game losing streak for the Caps is their longest since March 2007.

Gaborik deftly deflected a shot by Marc Staal to put the Rangers up 3-0 just 2:08 later. Staal's shot from the point found Gaborik at the side of the net, where he redirected the puck over Varlamov's right leg and under his blocker.

Just 1:23 later, the floodgates officially opened when Dubinsky beat Varlamov with a long wrister than even Dubinsky felt he didn't deserve.

With the Rangers up 4-0 midway through the second period, Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.

Ovechkin dropped Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi with a clean hip check, then sought out Dubinsky for a fight at center ice. Dubinsky obliged and took down the Caps' captain to the delight of 18,200 fans.

If Ovechkin was looking to give his team a lift, it didn't work. Staal scored a shorthanded goal by joining the rush 1:09 after the tussle to put the Rangers up 5-0. His sixth goal of the year is just two less than his career-high of last season and more evidence he's becoming more comfortable with the offensive side of his game.

"We all know what he is -- he's a very, very good player," Tortorella said of Staal. "He is growing up not only defensively, but his offensive game is coming. That is why the shorthanded goal is a nice play for him. He feels it offensively. He is not only going to be one of our top defenders, but he needs to add that to his game and he is certainly right now."

Ryan Callahan tacked on two more goals in the third period to finish the scoring in support of Lundqvist, who talked about how bad he felt following the loss to Columbus on Saturday.

"It really bothered me last night. I was really frustrated and disappointed," he said. "I was happy they put me in today again so I could get it out of my system and I don't think about it too much. Sometimes when I am upset at myself, I use it as energy for the next game.

"This was the answer I was looking for."

"We wanted to get the shutout for Hanky no matter what it took," said Girardi, one of seven Rangers to register two points Sunday.

The Caps, meanwhile, are at a loss to explain this slump that has seen them score just seven goals in six games.

"I don't have an answer right now. I have to think about this," said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, who had to be relieved when Ovechkin hobbled to the bench with nine minutes left in the game but wasn't seriously hurt. "It is unfamiliar territory and I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves, but as you can tell when you get down, teams aren't feeling sorry for you. They're pushing and piling it on. We have to figure out a way to get out of this before it's too late."

The Rangers will visit the League-leading Penguins on Wednesday and they'll likely have Chris Drury back from a broken finger. The last thing Tortorella is worried about is messing with the chemistry of his team.

"I don't think that's going to affect us. This is our captain coming in," Tortorella said. "I think everybody wants him in. Someone's going to have to sit out. It's not going to be a kid, though."

On a night when the Rangers looked like kids in a candy store, it might be even harder for Tortorella to pull anyone out of his lineup.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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