Stepan Leads Balanced Attack in 4-1 Victory Over Senators

OTTAWA (AP) — Even though the New York Rangers believe their playoff destiny is theirs to determine, they admit that they do a little scoreboard-watching.

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 over 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 in Chicago on Friday night.

“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,” Rangers center 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 that dropped them to eighth in the East. On Thursday night they dropped their third straight at home, falling to Minnesota.

“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.”

The NHL leader with eight shutouts, Lundqvist lost his bid for another 4:56 into the third on Sergei Gonchar’s power-play goal.

“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,” Senators left wing 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.

The Rangers were immune to the hot goalie’s spell, though, building a 4-0 lead before Gonchar finally got one past Lundqvist.

“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 Senators forward curled around to the right faceoff circle where he snapped a low shot past Anderson 10:08 in.

A pair of quick goals in the second put a sudden dent in Anderson’s stellar statistics and increased the Rangers’ lead to 3-0.

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 6:26 into the middle period.

New York’s second goal was still being announced when Anisimov made it 3-0 at 6:38. Sprung by a pass from Ryan Callahan at the blue line, Anisimov drove in alone and deked to put a shot past Anderson for his 15th goal.

Lundqvist made a lunging save to deny Senators left wing Nick Foligno moments later.

Ottawa’s Chris Neil caused a scrum when he crashed the net after Lundqvist made a save early in the third. Neil and Rangers center Brian Boyle were given roughing minors.

Stepan got his second point of the game with his 18th goal on the ensuing 4-on-4 when he drove in on Anderson and roofed a shot to make it 4-0.

Gonchar got his seventh goal after Matt Gilroy was penalized for high-sticking.

NOTES: Rangers RW Marian Gaborik (concussion) missed his fifth straight game, though he accompanied the team to Ottawa and skated with backup G Chad Johnson earlier in the day. … New York D Steve Eminger, who assisted on Stepan’s goal, played his 400th regular-season game.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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