Snapping a season-long, seven-game losing streak, the Rangers came out hard in the first period and went out fighting in the third against a chippy Capitals team that has lost four in a row.
Petr Prucha scored two goals, his first coming 1:55 into the opening period to halt a 153:38 scoreless streak by the Rangers. Michael Nylander and Darius Kasparaitis also scored for the Blueshirts, while Ben Clymer erased Henrik Lundqvists shutout bid late in the third period.
While the Rangers ended their worst skid since they dropped eight in a row in March 2004, Brendan Shanahan made a statement when he fought Capitals enforcer Donald Brashear in the third period of an extremely physical game. In response to several liberties taken against captain Jaromir Jagr, Shanahan challenged Brashear at 7:29 of the third.
“I thought this was just a game where our team needed a little extra in different areas, and I think the opportunity presented itself with some of the things he did to Jaromir throughout the game,” Shanahan said. “I went to the faceoff and I asked him to fight and he did.
“I don’t think he thought I was serious. In the beginning he kind of gave me a chance to back out of it and I told him, No.”‘
The pair fought at centre ice to chants of “Shanny! Shanny!” When Brashear motioned as if he was dusting off his hands following the tussle, Aaron Ward said something that caused Brashear to punch him in the face twice. Brashear was slapped with a game misconduct for intent to injure, while Ward was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I just asked him a question,” Ward said.
Brashear did not comment after the game.
“Its great to see,” Jagr said of Shanahan’s actions. “He is not only about big goals, he protects his players.”
The game featured two of the more fatigued squads in the NHL with the Rangers playing their eighth game in 15 days and the illness-ravaged Capitals playing for the fourth time in five nights. Washington, with several players in uniform despite a stomach virus that has swept their locker room, has lost four in a row and failed to generate much of an attack for most of the game.
With 4:20 left to play, the Rangers’ Colton Orr levelled Alex Ovechkin with a high, open-ice hit that earned a charging penalty and a fight with Shaone Morrissonn.
“If they want to play physical, we’re going to play physical,” Morrissonn said. “Its a physical game out there.”
The Rangers scored for the first time since before Christmas less than two minutes into the game when Prucha potted his seventh goal of the season on a rebound at the left post. The goal was the Rangers’ first since the second period of a 4-3 loss at Tampa on Dec. 23.
Prucha, on a line with Shanahan and Matt Cullen, made it 4-0 late in the third period before Clymer ended Lundqvist’s shutout bid with less than three minutes to play. Lundqvist made 22 saves, staying in the net after being shaken up in a third-period collision.
Nylander, who helped to set up Prucha’s first goal by getting the puck to the point as he was levelled by Ovechkin, made it 2-0. His 13th of the year and third in the last 11 games came off a quick pass from Martin Straka from behind the Washington cage at 13:25 of the first.
Kasparaitis made it 3-0 when he snapped Jagr’s centring pass past Olaf Kolzig’s blocker from between the circles with less than a minute left in the second. The goal was the defenceman’s second of the year.
“You can only hold Darius Kasparaitis down for so long before he lets loose,” Shanahan said.
Notes: Kolzig (31 saves) made a pad save on Karel Rachunek after the Rangers defenceman was awarded a penalty shot when he was fouled from behind on a short-handed breakaway at 13:15 of the second period by an Ovechkin stick check. … Rangers have won five straight against Washington at the Garden. … Ovechkin, in his second season, finished the 2006 calendar year as NHL’s top goal-scorer with 54.