NEW YORK -- Desperate for a road victory -- for a victory of any kind for that matter -- the Ottawa Senators didn't sit back and play for overtime during the third period Friday night against the New York Rangers. Instead, the Senators played the role of the fierce aggressors and were rewarded with their first regulation road win in nearly two months.
Jakob Silfverberg's goal with 4:41 remaining gave the Senators a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden, ending their four-game losing streak and snapping the Rangers' four-game winning streak.
The Senators entered the game 0-3-1 on their five-game road trip and with three wins away from Scotiabank Place this season. Their prior road victory came Feb. 18, a 2-1 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils, and they hadn't earned a road win in a 60-minute game since defeating the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Jan. 24 in the Senators' third game of the season.
"We've been playing OK on the road, but we haven't been playing with the killer instinct to get the win," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We knew tonight the fifth game on the road, it would be a big boost for our team. I thought we did a good job laying it on the line in the third period."
Instead of taking a conservative tact, the Senators kept the gas pedal floored. They fired 17 third-period shots on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and it was their 12th that found the back of the net.
Senators defenseman Eric Gryba, who nearly scored minutes early but had his shot ring off the crossbar, fired a blast that Lundqvist was unable to control. The puck came to rest on the stick of Silfverberg, whose quick release could not be handled by Lundqvist.
In a game in which Lundqvist and the Senators' Robin Lehner were in the midst of a Swedish goaltending duel and finished with 36 and 33 saves, respectively, Silfverberg, a 22-year-old Swede, stole the spotlight when it mattered most.
"They've got to let one in every once in a while," Silfverberg said. "It was a lot of fun to get that one in, especially on Henrik."
Since April 2006, Ottawa is 12-1-1 in regular-season games at Madison Square Garden.
It wasn't as though the Rangers were sitting back and absorbing all of the Senators' best shots Friday -- New York fired 13 on Lehner during the third period, many from prime scoring areas. Lehner's best save came at 6:43 of the third with the game tied 2-2.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan made a nice play with his stick on Chris Phillips behind the goal line, knocking the puck away from the Senators' defenseman and onto the stick of Marian Gaborik. Stepan positioned himself for what looked like an easy goal from the top of the crease, but Lehner lunged to get his blocker on the point-blank shot that was labeled for the open side of the net.
Lehner grew up a big fan of Lundqvist, and his father, Michael, served as Lundqvist's goaltender coach in Sweden. When Lehner found out Thursday he'd be getting the start against Lundqvist, he admitted he had some nerves. The 21-year-old looked shaky early, and the Senators' 2-0 lead evaporated on goals by Rick Nash and Brad Richards, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with back and neck stiffness.
There was nothing Lehner could do about Nash's goal, as it changed direction and dipped after tipping off a defender's stick. But Lehner lamented the second goal; he was off his angle and not ready after Carl Hagelin dropped the puck to Richards for the quick shot.
"Yesterday was tougher -- I was very anxious to play against him," Lehner said of Lundqvist. "But when game day comes, I don't play against the other goalie, I play against the puck. That's the only thing I was worrying about.
"It was a little tough for me in the first period today. That first goal with the deflection, it kind of dove on me but I think I should still have it. That kind of messed with my head a little bit. Then the second one, I just feel like I have to work on my angles a little bit. All in all, it was pretty good. We did a really good job clearing some rebounds."
The Senators continue to stockpile points despite losing defenseman Erik Karlsson (Achilles) and Jason Spezza (back) to long-term injuries. Since losing Karlsson for the season Feb. 13, and with Spezza already long gone at that point (although he's looking likely to return before the end of the season) the Senators are 6-3-2.
In the competitive Northeast Division, the Senators are in fourth place with 30 points, enough to hold sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
The eighth-place Rangers, with 26 points in 23 games, were playing the second half of back-to-back games but seemed to find their legs after a slow start. A troubling number for the Rangers is their record against the East's top eight this season: 3-7-1.
The Rangers carried the play for extended times Friday, but it wasn't enough.
"In the start of the third, we had the better looks and slowly but surely they started to tilt the ice and they got one back," Stepan said.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said, "[Derek] had a chance. If he scores that, you never know where it goes."
From here, the Rangers go on a four-game road trip that hits Washington, Buffalo, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh, their first extended time away from home this season. Of their remaining 25 games, the Rangers play 16 away from MSG.
The Senators will get the weekend off before a showdown with the Northeast-leading Boston Bruins and will look to bring the same mindset into that game they had in the third period against the Rangers.
"That was something we talked about after the second period, to go out and play like we were down a goal," said Phillips, who received 19 minutes in penalties stemming from a first-period fight with Micheal Haley. "That's when we're at our best."