Sizzling Senators blank 1st-place Rangers

Craig Anderson made 34 saves for his first shutout of the season, Jason Spezza scored twice, and the Ottawa Senators beat the surging New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday night.

Ottawa 7-0-1 since Dec. 30

Jason Spezza celebrates his first goal on Thursday with Ottawa teammates at Madison Square Garden. (Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

Craig Anderson made 34 saves for his first shutout of the season, Jason Spezza scored twice, and the Ottawa Senators beat the surging New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday night.

Milan Michalek also scored for the Senators, who have won three straight as part of a streak that has seen them earn points in their last eight games (7-0-1).

Sens defenceman Erik Karlsson returned after sitting out Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh because of an upper body injury. He earned assists on the final two goals.

New York (27-10-4), which entered with the most points in the NHL, had won five straight and 10 of 11. With Boston winning Thursday, the Rangers are just one point ahead in the Eastern Conference over the Bruins, who have a game in hand.

Anderson's 17th career shutout, and first since a 44-save effort against Washington on March 25, came nearly two years after Ottawa's winning streak began in New York with a 2-0 victory on Jan. 14, 2010.

"He's just so steady back there right now and you can tell he's got confidence," Spezza said. "When your goalie exudes that type of confidence, the team has that type of confidence. He's done a great job calming things down when we're scrambling a little bit. There's times in the game where the other team is going to take momentum, and he's done a good job of taking it back."

Anderson had a busy night, especially in the first period when the Rangers recorded 11 of the first 14 shots and took 12 straight.

His best saves came on the same sequence 5 ½ minutes in when he made a toe stop on Derek Stepan's shot and then sprawled across the crease to get his left pad on Marc Staal's backhand attempt on the rebound. Anderson also made a point-blank stop on Brad Richards about seven minutes into the third, and another about a minute later on Stepan.

"If they get that one early, I think it's a different hockey game," Anderson said. "I just tried to get back into position, stretched out my leg and was fortunate enough to make the save."

Ottawa became one of the last teams to register a shutout this season, posting its fourth blanking in 37 games at New York. The Blackhawks and Islanders are the only remaining teams without a shutout this season.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for the Rangers, who had their fourth winning streak of at least five games stopped. Spezza got the Senators going with a nifty wrist shot from the right circle. Spezza skated into the Rangers zone, after defenceman Chris Phillips beat Brian Boyle to a loose puck in the Ottawa end, and beat Lundqvist on a partial screen 8:54 into the second.

"They are a skilled team, especially when they are on odd-man rushes. They are able to make some good plays," Lundqvist said.

Michalek pushed the lead to 2-0 and sent many fans heading to the exits when he scored his 23rd goal.

Michalek beat Lundqvist to the glove side with a wrist shot from the low slot with 6:02 remaining. Less than two minutes later, Spezza scored off a rebound during a power play to make it 3-0 with 4:27 left.

The Rangers were blanked for the first time since a 1-0 loss to Dallas on Dec. 13.

They also were handed their fourth regulation loss at home in 19 games (13-4-2). 

Rangers centre Brandon Dubinsky missed the game because of a sore right shoulder, and LW Wojtek Wolski took his place in the lineup. Dubinsky was injured Tuesday during a shootout win against Phoenix when he was hit by Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt in the first period.

With files from CBCSports.ca