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Stepan ends dry spell; Rangers top Senators

The SportsXchange

OTTAWA -- New York Rangers center Derek Stepan ended his slump with a backbreaker of a goal against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre.

With his team leading 2-1 in the final seconds of the second period, Stepan was the recipient of a giveaway by Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, a gift he promptly deposited into the Ottawa net. The Rangers (26-21-3) went on to score the lone goal of the third period for a 4-1 win, giving them five victories in their last six outings.

"For whatever reason, through the year, you go through these little dips and gullies and you have to find a way to just get through it," said Stepan, who ended his goal drought at 13 games and also had two assists in the victory. "It's the old saying, 'Get the monkey off your back.' It's a big relief."

Center Brad Richard and wingers Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello also scored for New York. Defenseman Marc Methot had the lone goal for the Senators (21-19-9), who lost in regulation for the first time in nine games.

Zuccarello's goal was also the result of a direct giveaway by Senators center Jason Spezza in the third period.

"We were a little bit too sloppy with the puck and we couldn't really make those quality plays," Karlsson said. "It was just one of those days where it really didn't go our way."

Making his first start in two weeks, Rangers goalie Cam Talbot stopped 29 shots to improve his record to 10-3-0.

Talbot was not distracted by a behind-the-net bump from Senators winger Cory Conacher and noted that his teammates refused to allow momentum to turn when Senators winger Chris Neil crushed center Dominic Moore in the second period.

"We've been playing like this for a while now ... we're not letting anything the other team does dictate our play," Talbot said. "I think that's what we did tonight. We didn't let a big hit or anything like that change the momentum. We just kept going right at them and I think that's the best part of our game right now, our resiliency and resolve."

Senators goalie Craig Anderson was tested 31 times as his record fell to 15-10-6. Anderson entered the game on a 6-0-3 run.

"We're fighting for our lives here and every team in our situation is fighting for their lives," said Anderson, referring to the Senators' failed attempt to move into a wild-card spot. "We have to find ways to keep getting points like we were before.

"We didn't get the job done and if we could change some things I'm sure guys would like to fix their mistakes. We can't do anything about it now, we can only do something about it going forward and try to make sure we don't make the same mistakes again."

The teams traded goals in the first period. Methot's point blast 3:37 in was answered by Richards' goal with the Rangers enjoying a two-man power play advantage.

Nash scored what proved to be the winner when he took a pass from Stepan and beat Anderson with a high shot to the stick side off a partial break.

"It was a good play by Stepan," Nash said. "The puck rolled on me a bit, but you take them anyway you can get them."

NOTES: Rangers D Justin Faulk, a U.S. Olympian, was scratched from the lineup for the 10th consecutive game. ... Senators C Kyle Turris entered the day on a four-game goal scoring streak. ... Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, a former assistant with the Senators, was a teammate of Ottawa coach Paul MacLean with the 1977-78 Hull Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. ... Senators RW Chris Neil, who returned to the line up after missing six games with a hamstring injury, fell to ninth among the league leaders in the hits category during his absence. Neil entered Saturday second on the team with 146, trailing LW Colin Greening, whose 155 hits had him fifth in the NHL. ... The second- period goal by Rangers LW Rick Nash was his fifth in the last seven games.

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