The New York Rangers couldn’t have asked for more from Jaroslav Halak Wednesday night.
The 37-year-old netminder earned his first win of the season behind a 34-save effort, leading the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s great for our team, but it’s also great for him to get that first win after playing the way he played,” said Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant. “He was outstanding. He made some key saves at key times for us and gave us a chance to win tonight.”
Halak (1-5-1) hasn’t lost in the nation’s capital since 2009 and became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record a win with at least seven different franchises.
“It’s a big win for me, personally,” said Halak. “For us, it’s another two points in the standings and we need to move up.”
Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow and Chris Kreider each scored for the Rangers (11-9-4) who had lost their last three. Ryan Lindgren chipped in with three assists.
Shane Pinto scored the lone goal for Ottawa (8-13-1). Cam Talbot made 33 saves.
After winning the final two of a four-game road trip, the Senators hoped to build off the momentum and turn their fortunes around on home ice. Instead, Ottawa fell to 1-7-0 in its last eight home games.
Senators head coach D.J. Smith thought his team played well enough, but when asked what was missing, his answer was simple.
“Execution,” said Smith. “I think offensively we had some chances to shoot where we didn’t shoot and maybe (got) too cute. In a 2-1 game, you’re passing up some grade ‘A’ looks and then it’s 3-1 and you’re squeezing it. I just didn’t think we got to the net enough.”
All three Rangers goals came as a result of strong net-front presence, something the Senators lacked.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of forechecking,” said Pinto. “We created some chances. We’ve just got to get in front of their net more.
“I think the goalie is seeing all the shots. I think it’s so important for the D to get the pucks to the net and then we have to be in front and that’s how you cause havoc and create those chances.”
Leading 2-1 to start the third period, the Rangers were able to add the insurance marker when Lindgren, who was left uncontested at the point, had his shot tipped in by Kreider, who was alone in front, 12:59 into the frame.
“You want your players there,” said Gallant of the net-front presence. “You talk about it, you watch games every night and that’s where 90 per cent of the goals are scored from, the blue paint area. We had guys going there, we had a couple deflections and a couple of rebounds, so hopefully that will carry over.”
After an uninspiring first period, both teams raised their level of intensity in the second.
The Rangers extended their lead to 2-0 at 10:52 of the frame when Ryan Lindgren’s shot deflected off Goodrow and in past Talbot, who made 32 saves.
Ottawa was able to cut the deficit in half with Pinto’s ninth of the season at 13:47 of the period. It was the New York native’s first career goal against the Rangers and first in nine games.
Vesey opened the scoring for the Rangers at 10:34 of the first when he jumped on a rebound out front. It was his third of the season and first in nine games.
The Senators now turn their focus to Friday when they get their shot at redemption on the road.
“The good news is we get to go right back at these guys in two days at MSG and it’s going to be another fun one so we have to put this one behind us and do what we did on the last road trip,” said Talbot.
INTERESTING FACT OR STAT
Senators captain Brady Tkachuk needs one goal to reach the century mark for his career and one PIM for 400. Since joining the league in 2018-19, Tkachuk is the only player with more than 1000 hits and 1000-plus shots.
Dylan Gambrell was a healthy scratch for the Senators. New York’s Vincent Trochek, who had been questionable due to an undisclosed injury, was able to play.
The Senators and Rangers will have a rematch Friday night at Madison Square Garden.