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Rangers score season-high eight goals, Henrik Lundqvist sets franchise record in 8-4 win
OTTAWA -- After losing 1-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, the embattled Rangers offense got some puck luck and scored a season-high eight goals Tuesday night, downing the Senators, 8-4, and climbing back into a playoff spot with 12 games to play.
The wild game, during which the Rangers put three shots past goaltender Robin Lehner in 3:56 of the second period to bust open a game tied at 2, helped Henrik Lundqvist secure his franchise-record 302nd win.
The wins record, formerly held by Mike Richter, was overshadowed by the scoring outburst, in which Rick Nash and Derick Brassard each scored twice, and Brassard had an assist.
"Two points, that's what we needed, we were desperate," said Nash, especially after a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Sunday. "The last game we were snakebitten, didn't get any breaks, one [goal] didn't count . . . We got all the bounces tonight, but in saying that, we've got to tighten it up defensively."
In the first game of a three-city trip, the critical two points gave the Rangers (37-28-4) 78 points, enough to pass the Blue Jackets, whom they will face Friday.
Trailing 2-1 after the first period, the Rangers, who had gathered just two of a possible eight points in the previous four games, were uncharacteristically loose defensively, but the Senators, who have lost six of the last seven, were worse.
The three-goal explosion that broke the tie at 2 started with a turnover. Jason Spezza lost a pass from the corner in his skates in front of Lehner, and Benoit Pouliot roofed a wrister with 4:12 left in the period. John Moore's unassisted goal came when his shot from the left point eluded Lehner, and Ryan McDonagh's slapper from the blue line deflected off Marc Methot, who was tied up with Marty St. Louis between the circles, and into the net at 19:44. So after 40 minutes, the Rangers were up 5-2, but it wasn't a safe lead.
"Let's just say it was not a defensive masterpiece," coach Alain Vigneault said.
Milan Michalek scored to trim the lead to two early in the third on a top-shelf wrister, but Derek Stepan, driving the net, restored the three-goal lead when Mats Zuccarello's pass glanced off his skate and past Nathan Lawson, who relieved Lehner at the start of the third. Brassard's second of the night at 4:45 extended the lead to 7-3, Bobby Ryan answered and Nash scored his second, an empty-netter, at 17:30.
In all, six Rangers scored and 13 had points. "We haven't been scoring much lately, so it was important for us to get a game like this," said Zuccarello, who had two assists.
"It was definitely a challenge," said Lundqvist, who finished with 35 saves for his 26th win of the season. "It was a weird game; in the third, we got a little sloppy. But when things go against you, it's the way you respond the next night, that's how you show character . . . I'm just happy it's over."
Now in his eighth season, Lundqvist was humbled by the record. "It's an incredible feeling, a proud feeling, being up there with those guys who played for this organization for a lot of years. It's kind of surreal . . . but at the same time, you want to keep going, I have a lot of years left to keep winning."