BY STEVE ZIPAY
By scoring six points----four goals and two assists----and helping shut down Washington’s top trio led by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s resounding 7-0 thumping of the Capitals, the feisty line of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan provided plenty of welcome news.
But the Rangers, who rebounded from a disappointing 3-1 loss on Saturday in Columbus, also received a significant piece of good news on the injury front. Captain Chris Drury, who has played just one game all season after twice breaking his left index finger, is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, coach John Tortorella said.
The veteran center’s return should help boost the fortunes of the Rangers (18-13-1) as they continue a rugged pre-Christmas stretch against legit playoff contenders: the Penguins, Coyotes, Flyers and Lighting.
Of course, if the Rangers respond from the drop of the puck to the final horn as they did last night at Madison Square Garden, they assuredly will be a playoff team this season.
“Right from the get-go, we were outworking them, everybody contributed,” said Dubinsky, who scored his team-leading 14th goal of the year at 4:20 of the second period to produce a 4-0 lead and fought Ovechkin after the Russian’s hip check that felled Dan Girardi about five minutes later. “They are a dangerous team and we knew had to keep playing and keep that killer instinct.”
Dubinsky let his instincts take over when he turned and saw Girardi down near the boards and Ovechkin skating toward him. “I didn’t think he’d drop the gloves so fast. I really respect the way he plays and obviously his skill level. At the same time, I saw one of my teammates on the ice and wanted to protect him.” The pair exchanged some wild blows and Dubinsky ended up atop Ovechkin on the ice as the Garden crowd roared more loudly than it has in weeks. No wonder: the Rangers (7-8-1) have struggled at home all season.
With 31 saves and his fifth shutout, Henrik Lundvist also rebounded from his awful gaffe in allowing Rick Nash’s sharp-angle game-winner on Saturday. “I was happy they put me in again so I could get it out of my system. When I’m upset at myself I use it as energy for the next game. This was the answer I was looking for.”
The Caps, who have not won in six games and sustained their worst loss of the year, had no answers, and the frustration boiled over as the rangers scored four goals in the second to turn a 1-0 game into a rout. Seven different Rangers---Dubinsky, Callahan (two goals), Anisimov (his first goal in 11 games), Girardi, Boyle, Brandon Prust and Marc Staal---each recorded two points.
Prust opened the scoring with his fourth goal on quick sharp-angle shot past Seymon Varlamov with 2:09 left in the first period and assisted on Staal’s shorthanded goal---the team’s league-leading seventh---at 10:42 of the second.
“He is growing up,” Tortorella said of Staal, 23, who had eight points in the last 10 games. “Not only defensively, but his offensive game is coming. That is a nice play by him, Marc Staal rushing up the ice. He feels it offensively. He not only is one of our top defenders, but he needs to add that to his game, and he certainly is right now.”