OTTAWA – Brendan Shanahan made sure the New York Rangers didn’t miss an opportunity to further close the gap on the slumping Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference.
The veteran forward scored twice Saturday afternoon in a 5-2 victory that represented a sixth straight loss for the Senators.
Jaromir Jagr, Dan Girardi and Blair Betts, into an empty net, also scored for the Rangers (15-9-2), who are now just two points behind Ottawa (16-7-2) for first in the Eastern Conference.
“We came in here definitely catching a team down,” said Shanahan. “And when a team is down you want to jump on them and you don’t want to give them a chance to build confidence and build good things.”
Joe Corvo and Dany Heatley replied for Ottawa, which fell behind 4-0 and could get no closer than 4-2. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson each had two assists in the loss. The losing skid is the longest for the Senators since dropping seven straight from Feb. 22-Mar. 9, 1996.
“I thought towards the end of the second and into the third we showed a little more energy in their zone,” said Senators coach John Paddock, who had a mild explanation for his team’s recent woes.
“We’re a good hockey team that’s a lot better than we’re playing right now. But we’re not winning lots of battles in the corners either offensively or defensively.”
Henrik Lundqvist was again for the Rangers and made 32 saves to earn his league-leading 14th win of the season. He wasn’t busy in the opening period when he faced just six shots, but the Senators came on in the final two frames and outshot New York 33-25 overall.
Martin Gerber, who shut out the Rangers 2-0 back on Oct. 6, made his 19th start of the season for the Senators but didn’t make it to the second period. After allowing three goals on 12 first-period shots, Gerber was replaced by Ray Emery after 20 minutes.
“When you lose (six) games in a row, it’s no one person’s fault,” said Spezza. “Gerbs get the hook because we needed to change momentum and it’s part of the game but by no means is it one persons fault.
“We all take credit when we’re winning and we should all take the equal blame when we’re losing. We’re not making plays, we’re not breaking out of our end and we seem timid early on in games.
“It’s not through lack of effort and like I’ve always said, it’s a lot harder to get out of losing streaks than it is to keep winning.”
The Senators gave a better showing in the second period, although improving on their first-period performance wasn’t a daunting task.
After falling behind 4-0 midway through game, the Senators got on the scoreboard when Corvo took a drop pass from Spezza and beat Lundqvist with a low shot to the far side of the net at 14:28 of the second period.
Heatley’s goal at 14:02 of the third again narrowed the gap before Betts iced things at 19:18.
“You get down 4-0 you’re not going to beat anybody in this league,” said Spezza. “It doesn’t matter how well you play after that. We battled back but it doesn’t mean a heck of lot when you get down 4-0.”
It didn’t take the Rangers long to get started once the puck dropped as Girardi scored at 3:37 of the first period when his point shot got under the right pad of Gerber.
Shanahan doubled the Rangers lead at 7:23 when he took a behind-the-net feed from Scott Gomez and fired a one-timer past Gerber.
Four minutes later Jagr skated into the slot and beat Gerber with a hard wrist shot and that power-play goal gave the Rangers a commanding 3-0 lead that they took into the first intermission.
Shanahan’s second goal of the game was also the second power-play goal for the Rangers and it gave them a 4-0 lead.
“Ottawa’s having a bit of a tough stretch right now, as everybody does, and we respect that as much as anybody because we’ve been through that,” said Rangers coach Tom Renney.
“The gaps been closed by a combination of the fact that we’ve played better and they’ve been having a bit of a tough go.”
NOTES: Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 17 of 24 games this season. a Spezza has recorded at least one assist in his past seven games. a Shanahan ranks first among all active players with 636 career goals.