NEW YORK – Ryan McDonagh deked, waited, twisted, and shot.
Unfortunately for the indispensable Rangers defenseman, his left leg got caught in a rut on the Madison Square Garden ice, so when his shot sailed past Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth (25 saves), he was laying on the ice in pain. Rangers fans celebrating the goal quickly fell silent as McDonagh needed the help of Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky to gingerly skate towards the Rangers locker room.
Just 2:26 later, McDonagh skated back onto the ice, flexed and stretched his left leg, and helped the Rangers (36-13-5) kill a penalty en route to a 3-2 win over the defensively inept Capitals (28-22-5).
“It’s something that’s been tweaked before in the past, it’s nothing serious,” said the sophomore defenseman who leads the team with 139 blocked shots. “My knee just kind of had a shock through it all the way through the leg. Rammer kind of stretched it out, calmed it down. It’s nothing to worry about, which is great.
“It looked pretty awkward. He’s a tough kid, he doesn’t stay down. He was in a lot of pain; you never want to see that,” said Boyle. “He was still kind of in pain. It’s the type of kid he is.”
McDonagh, who said his teammates gave him a hard time for ruining the celebration once they realized he was OK, has emerged as one of the top defensemen in the league next to his All-Star partner, Dan Girardi. McDonagh’s average time on ice is second on the team, and his plus/minus is tied for second on the team.
“It’s never fun to see a guy go down like that,” Lundqvist (24 saves) said after starting back-to-back games for the third time all season. “It was such a great play. He’s been working on that toe-drag for a while, now. He’s good at it. We’re all happy he’s back and feeling good.”
“I’ve kind of had this injury in the past. It’s just a little tweak, everything – I know you guys want to think something seriously happened, but it’s really OK. I’m glad it is,” McDonagh said. “Everybody said ‘you ruined a celebration!’ Everybody was trying to gather around and I’m on the ice in pain. Probably doesn’t look too good from the stands.”
Prust’s tally his first in 48 games
As Brandon Prust skated with Brandon Dubinsky in a shorthanded two-on-one midway through the third period, he was riding a 48-game scoreless streak. When he fired Dubinsky’s pass past Neuvirth, he tallied for only the third time this season.
“It feels good. Getting the game-winner is always good. 48 [games]? It felt like a hundred,” Prust joked. “Sometimes you’re not getting bounces and stuff like that. Just going to the net hard, I was just thinking I’m going to plant myself in front of the net. Dubi and Boyler have been doing a good job getting pucks there.”
“He’s a really easy guy to pull for. For him to get rewarded, score a big goal… you pull for him,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “We have our top players do some really good things yesterday, we get some other guys step up and do some other things today, everyone’s joining in and playing the best they can play.”
Of Prust’s three goals this season, two are shorthanded. Last year, Prust scored five shorthanded goals out of a season haul of 13.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan scored his fourth goal of the weekend, giving him 22 this season, one away from his career high set last year.
Marc Staal, who missed the Rangers first 36 games with a concussion, tallied his first point of the season when he assisted on Prust’s goal.
Lundqvist won his 26th game, which ranks fourth in the league. His .939 save percentage is tied for first in the NHL, and his 1.81 goals against average ranks second.
The Rangers will not practice on Monday, instead taking the day off before heading to Boston on Tuesday for their third game in four nights.