WASHINGTON – Erik Christensen is known more his shootout prowess. The New York Rangers’ centre proved Friday night he can contribute during regulation as well.
Erik Christensen had two goals and two assists for a career-high four points, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots for his league-leading eighth shutout of the season, and the Rangers rolled to a 6-0 victory over the Washington Capitals.
In his six NHL seasons, Christensen has registered 22 shootout goals and 10 shootout game-winners, earning him the perhaps unfair reputation of a one-dimensional player.
“I hate that label,” he said. “I am more known for shootouts, so it’s nice to break through and feel like I can contribute, which I can.”
Heading into Friday’s game, Christensen had just six goals and 14 points, and had not scored a regulation goal since Dec. 15. Against the Capitals, he was the catalyst of New York’s offence both early and late.
“The last couple of games he’s been more assertive, I guess,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “He’s wanted the puck and he’s gotten the puck.”
Christensen gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead with 5:17 left in the first period off a nice pass from Michael Sauer, scoring between two Capitals defenders. His second goal, on the power play with an assist from Ryan Callahan, made it 3-0 at 4:17 of the second period.
“I’m just there to get lucky on those,” Christensen said. “I’ve been trying to go to the net more, and lo and behold, the puck comes to me. I don’t really score those kind of goals, but I think I’m going to keep going around the front of the net.”
That was more than enough for Lundqvist, who made several spectacular saves to take the steam out of Washington and help New York win its second straight.
“It’s great to get the lead against this team,” Lundqvist said. “They have so much firepower and so many skill guys, if they feel good and they feel confident, they are so much better. Tonight, we were on top of them, and when we scored the second and third goal you could feel them get frustrated.”
The six-goal margin of victory was the first time the Rangers have won by more than two since a 7-0 rout of Toronto on Jan. 19.
“A win is a win. I don’t really look at the numbers,” Lundqvist said. “It’s good for your confidence to be able to beat this team a couple of times this year.”
Playing their first home game in 13 days, the Capitals appeared flat from the start and drew a smattering of boos on several occasions. Washington has been outscored 12-1 in its last three home games, all losses. The last time the Capitals lost by six or more goals at home was in a 7-1 defeat to Toronto in Nov. 2006.
“I’m not happy. Our fans deserve better,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We deserve to get booed. It’s just not acceptable and it’s embarrassing.”
Washington went 0 for 5 on the power play and Alexander Ovechkin saw his four-game point streak end despite getting off eight shots.
“Everybody feels embarrassed,” Ovechkin said. “We didn’t score. They scored six.”
Steve Eminger got New York’s big night started in the first period with a shot that found its way through traffic at 5:56 to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
On that play, Capitals defenceman Mike Green, who missed five games with a concussion and the flu, took an apparent elbow to the head from New York’s Derek Stepan. Green left the game and did not return.
Stepan added to the lead on a power play with 2:08 left in the second period, taking the rebound from Michael Del Zotto’s wide shot and poking it past Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth, who had wandered out of position.
Vinny Prospal and Brian Boyle closed the scoring in the third, both off assists from Christensen.
“I feel like I can have some big games,” Christensen said. “There’s no shootouts in the playoffs. There’s no reason to think I can’t score in regulation.”
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal missed the game with a left knee injury suffered in Tuesday’s game against Carolina. Staal took a hard hit from his brother Eric in the second period of that game and left in the third, but Marc Staal said his knee injury was not aggravated by the collision. … New York forward Ruslan Fedotenko was back in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 19. He missed 14 games with a separated shoulder and an appendectomy. … Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is not worried about the speculation surrounding the Feb. 28 trade deadline. “You guys make more trades than we’ll ever make,” he told the media before the game. … The Rangers captured the season series 2-1-1.