When defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky is on the ice, the Anaheim Ducks believe they have an extra forward on the ice.
Visnovsky and Corey Perry each had two goals and an assist, and Bobby Ryan added a goal and three assists to help the Ducks beat the New York Rangers 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Visnovsky, who last Friday against Dallas became the first defenceman in franchise history to get a hat trick, increased his points total to 54 - tying Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom and Phoenix's Keith Yandle for the NHL lead at the position. The 10-year veteran had a career-high 67 points in 2005-06 for Los Angeles.
"He's shooting the puck, and we've all become accustomed to his level of skill when he does shoot it," coach Randy Carlyle said. "He shoots it extremely accurate and extremely hard. When you combine that with a pretty dependable partner in Toni Lydman, who doesn't really join the rush, he has more freedom playing a lot behind our top forward line."
Dan Ellis made 30 saves, improving to 4-1-1 since joining Anaheim in a trade from Tampa Bay on Feb. 24. In his only other game against the Rangers this season, he made 34 saves in the Lightning's 4-3 shootout win at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23.
"I played them twice when I was in Tampa, so I knew that they were a very hard-working team, that they never ever give up and they've got a very good, strong low game," Ellis said. "They work those cycles behind the net, make quick little chip-and-jam plays, and they skate very well. Fortunately, they helped us on a few of the goals that took some weird bounces."
Anaheim concluded a 4-2-1 homestand in which five of the games were decided by one-goal margins — including back-to-back overtime wins against Detroit and Dallas. Saku Koivu returned to the lineup after missing six games with a concussion and assisted on Visnovsky's second goal.
The Ducks are two points out of a playoff spot, tied with Minnesota for ninth place in the Western Conference. New York is seventh in the East, two points ahead of Buffalo and Carolina.
Brandon Dubinsky scored his 20th goal for the Rangers and Marion Gaborik connected on a power play in the third period in his second game back after missing six games with a concussion.
"Coming in, we knew how they relied on the turnover game, and I don't think we were getting pucks in deep enough and sustaining a forecheck — especially early on. And that was the result," Rangers forward Ryan Callahan said. "We didn't work hard enough to get bounces going our way."
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots in the first meeting between the teams since Oct. 17, 2009. It was the first time in 14 starts that he allowed more than three goals, and the first time the Rangers allowed more than four goals as a team in 42 games since a 5-3 loss at Ottawa on Dec. 9.
"I think the bodychecks and the physical presence in the game was very evident right from the get-go," Carlyle said. "The first period we had 19 hits, so that was an area where we felt we were ready to play the game. We gave up the first goal, but that didn't deter our attitude. We did what we had to do to get the job done and our players were rewarded for their hard work."
Visnovsky put Anaheim ahead 2-1 at 9:19 of the first with a screened one-timer from the right point that beat Lundqvist to the stick side. He added his 14th goal just 41 seconds before intermission, a 50-foot slap shot that changed direction off the stick of Ranger forward Artem Anisomov and got past Lundqvist's glove.
"We did a good job in their zone all night," Ryan said. "I think we had them running around on the cycle a little bit and we did a good job putting pucks behind their D. So it was tough for them to regroup and make plays. We were physical all night long and got in front of Lundqvist and were making it tough for him to see shots."
Ryan scored his 31st goal to make it 4-1 with 17:41 remaining. It came just seconds after Ellis dove to his right to make an incredible stick save on Dubinsky's short wrist shot. In fact, the referees went to video replay after Ryan's goal to make sure that Dubinsky's shot hadn't crossed the goal line.
"That definitely hurt us a lot," Callahan said. "We came out in the third and started to sustain a little bit of pressure, and then [Ellis] comes up with a huge save on Dubie. And instead of a one-goal game, it's a three-goal game. So it definitely deflated us a bit there."