Much to their relief, the New York Rangers
' offense finally had a breakout night.
Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist, Mats Zuccarello and Artem Anisimov scored 12 seconds apart in the second period and the Rangers ended a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory at Ottawa on Friday night.
Vinny Prospal also scored to help New York move into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of Carolina and five behind sixth-place Montreal. The Hurricanes lost 5-2 at Chicago on Friday night.
The four goals were an offensive bonanza for the Rangers, who had scored just four times in the three losses -- a slump that dropped them to eighth in the East and left them uncomfortably close to ninth-place Buffalo..
"We're in a position where we control our own fate, we control our own destiny and the way we play and the points that we get," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "Obviously, you can't help but take a peek, but at the same time we're in charge of ourselves and we hold the key to what our future is."
The Rangers entered the game on a 4-10-1 skid, including a 3-1 home loss to Minnesota on Thursday. A loss to the last-place Senators was something they couldn't afford.
"Every game now is so important to us," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 28 saves in his 11th consecutive start. "We had a good road trip. We came back to New York, played three at home and didn't get any points. That was really frustrating and now we come back on the road and do our job and that's just great to see. We have one more home game and then we go on the road again. Hopefully we can get going here."
Lundqvist lost his bid for an NHL-best ninth shutout 4:56 into the third on Sergei Gonchar's power-play goal.
The win wiped away some of the disappointment of the three consecutive losses -- all of which came at home.
"You lose three at home, it's a kick in the teeth, but you wake up this morning, we're still in the playoffs, we're still right in the middle of it," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's just trying to gather ourselves and stay with one another, stay within our structure, and I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job tonight."
Craig Anderson stopped 23 shots for Ottawa. He has made seven consecutive starts, going 4-3 since the Senators acquired him in a Feb. 18 swap of struggling goalies that sent Brian Elliott to Colorado.
"We've got to do a better job of just trying to generate more offense for him," forward Nick Foligno said.
Anderson entered with a 1.16 goals-against-average and a .966 save percentage in his first six starts with Ottawa, allowing one goal or fewer five times. But the Rangers scored once in the first period before blowing the game open in the second.
"You could definitely tell that they were playing for their playoff lives," Foligno said.
Prospal opened the scoring midway through the first when he picked up the puck in the right corner while Sean Avery battled with Senators defenseman Chris Phillips behind the net. The former Senator curled around to the right circle before snapping a low shot past Anderson 10:08 in.
The Rangers took command with a quick pair early in the second.
Zuccarello drove the net after making a pass to Stepan from the left corner, putting himself in position to put away a rebound for his fourth goal at 6:26. The Rangers won the draw, Ryan Callahan sent Anisimov in alone and the Russian center deked Anderson before beating him for his 15th of the season.
"It's been a tough time for us trying to get off to good early starts, but we played well tonight and did what we needed to," Stepan said. "It's not like against the other games we haven't had our chances, it's just a bounce here, a bounce there, so it was good for us to get another one after taking the lead and then just keep rolling."
Stepan got his the 18th goal of his rookie by roofing a shot over Anderson 2:25 into the third.
"I think everyone is aware of how tight (the standings) are and how serious the situation is," Lundqvist said. "But we can't be nervous. It's a great challenge and it's still in our hands (to make the playoffs). We just have to keep at it the right way down the stretch here."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report