NEW YORK -- The Ottawa Senators had lost a two-goal lead in the first period, after losing four straight games.
But when they entered the third period of a rough, physical game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, they told themselves to play as if they were a goal down, in the hope of getting their aggression back up.
While the Senators struggled to do so at the beginning of the period, goalie Robin Lehner's save of Rangers center Derek Stepan's shot from close range changed the momentum. Eventually, Ottawa forward Jakob Silfverberg put in a late rebound from in tight to give the Senators a much-needed 3-2 win.
"Just to get back in the win column was big for us and the way that we did it," said Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who had an assist along with Eric Gryba on the game-winner, and served 19 penalty minutes in the first and second periods after an extended scrap with the Rangers' Micheal Haley. "Something that we talked about after the second period, to go out and play like we're down a goal; that's when we're at our best."
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Senators (13-8-4) in the teams' first matchup at the Garden since the Rangers' Game 7 victory in the first round of last year's playoffs.
Zack Smith and Patrick Wiercioch also scored for Ottawa, with Sergei Gonchar getting two assists. Lehner made 33 saves for the Senators while Henrik Lundqvist had 36 stops for the Rangers, who had rallied to tie the game in the first before the teams went scoreless in the second.
Rick Nash scored a goal in his fifth straight game for the Rangers (12-9-2), who lost for the first time in that span. Brad Richards also scored for New York, which lost a chance to tie the Senators for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
"Step has a chance," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Stepan's shot from in close that Lehnner stopped at 6:43 of the third. "If he scores that, you never know where it goes. ... We have a chance and we don't (score), they have a chance a little bit later and they do."
Along with the Phillips-Haley bout in the first, the teams got in several shoving matches in the third.
Ottawa finally settled down to score the game-winner on Silfverberg's fourth goal of the season, on the rebound from in close to Lundqvist's left. The Senators went up 3-2 with 4:41 left and held on from there.
"We've been having a tough time lately; obviously getting a win tonight was big for us," Silfverberg said after nailing the game-winner against his fellow Swede. "We said before the game, we had to win this one. For me, it was a big goal. Of course it is. He's one of the best goalies. It was a big goal for me and the team."
Down 2-1 in the second period, Haley slammed Senators center Jim O'Brien to the ice. Phillips took exception, going after the Rangers' bruiser and the pair got into a prolonged bout along the boards at the 13:49 mark.
When they were finally separated, Phillips was assessed two minutes each for instigating and instigating with a visor, five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct penalty, keeping him off the ice until the 15:37 mark of the second period.
Haley was given two minutes for charging and five minutes for fighting.
Phillips later said he "had a debate" about who should have gotten the instigator penalty as Haley dropped his gloves first. But after some recent scraps for the Senators, including the scary knockout punch from Toronto's Frazer McLaren that concussed Senators forward Dave Dziurynski on Wednesday, Phillips said he felt the need to step in after Haley went after O'Brien.
"He was trying to get him pretty good," Phillips said. "After the last couple games, I thought that was the appropriate thing to do."
The Rangers weren't able to convert on the ensuing power play, but tied the game a little more than four minutes later. Hagelin stole the puck along the boards, then fed Richards on the left wing, where Richards nailed a slap shot top shelf to tie it 2-2 at 17:39 of the second.
Smith's deflection of Gonchar's shot skipped past Lundqivst's right to give Ottawa a 1-0 lead at 6:18 of the first. Four-and-a-half minutes later, the Senators took a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Wiercioch, as he nailed a slap shot through a crowd. But, as he has through his hot streak recently, Nash responded for the Rangers, knocking in a wrist shot 13 seconds later to make it 2-1. It was the first goal this year Nash did not score in the third period.
Notes: Richards was back in the lineup after a two-game absence following the brutal hit by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta that sent him headfirst into the boards Sunday. Richards had returned to that game after a few minutes, but sat out the next two. ... Rangers center Brian Boyle was a scratch for the first time since he was a healthy scratch for three games in the middle of last month. Tortorella said after the game Boyle sat because "other guys were playing better. We're hoping he becomes part of it, but he certainly has to do more than he has." ... Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who was struck in the right eye by a puck Tuesday night, missed his second straight game and it's uncertain when he will return. ... O'Brien replaced Dziurzynksi in the lineup. ... The Senators entered the game having lost nine of their past 10 road games.