Rangers D-man Dan Girardi (r.) cracks sarcastically about breaking the franchise’s wins and points records: “One day we’ll look back and get honored at the Rangers’ golf classic.”
WASHINGTON – Three players appeared in all 82 Rangers games this season: Defenseman Dan Girardi and forwards Dominic Moore and Carl Hagelin.
Girardi incredibly, appeared in all 82 games for the fifth time in his seven, full, 82-game NHL seasons, and has appeared in an astounding of 651 of a possible 656 regular season games in his career.
That includes playing 81 games last season and only sitting out the final game in Montreal because coach Alain Vigneault mandated it to rest his top-pair blue liner.
“It means a lot, ya know?” Girardi, 30, said, quipping: “Last year I had the chance to, but it wasn’t my choice to sit out that last game. But it feels good to be able to play all the games, to contribute the best I can.
“There’s bumps and bruises along the way,” the Welland, Ontario, product continued. “But that’s just part of it. Luckily there wasn’t anything major this year, and hopefully we keep it going.”
Girardi is now tied with Brian Leetch for the most seasons in which a Rangers has played all 82 games since the NHL adopted that size schedule in 1995-96. But he doesn’t want to jinx the fact that he’s missed only four regular season games in his career.
“Yeah, that’s good,” he said. “But I don’t want to talk about that tonight.”
Girardi led the Rangers in hits (224), blocked shots (184) and overall ice time (1,860:45) this season.
Moore, meanwhile, played in all 82 games for the second time in his career and the first time since his rookie season of 2005-06, also with the Rangers. Furthermore, his goal and assist on Saturday finished his regular season on a tear: He has four goals in six games after scoring just seven in his other 76 matches.
Hagelin appeared in a full regular season for the second time in three opportunities, including the full 48-game, lockout-shortened schedule of 2012-13. Hagelin has played in 154 consecutive regular season games, a streak that began on Oct. 29, 2013. He is an offseason workout junkie, and his consecutive games streak is not a coincidence.
Finally, defenseman Keith Yandle didn’t just play in all 82 games this season; he appeared in 84, overlapping the full season total due to his deadline trade from the Arizona Coyotes to New York. He is the eighth NHL player who has skated in 84 or more games in one season since 1995-96.
Yandle, furthermore, has built an impressive consecutive games streak of 469 straight appearances, a stretch that began March 26, 2009, in just his second full season in the NHL.
“It’s hard work during the summers, it’s great training staffs,” Yandle said. “And it’s about recognizing as players that we’re lucky to play in this league, and when you can go, you go.”
Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano is the NHL’s current iron man, playing in 621 consecutive games.
The Rangers earned their 28th road win of the season, tying the record for the most road wins earned by an Eastern Conference team in one season in NHL history (New Jersey also recorded 28 road wins in 1998-99).
The Rangers’ 28 road wins are also tied for the second-most road wins any NHL team has earned in one season in league history (Detroit – 31 in 2005-06). The Rangers won 10 of their final 11 regular season road games (10-1-0) and earned at least one point in 11 of their final 12 road contests (10-1-1).
They won 15 of their final 18 road games (15-2-1), 17 of their final 22 road contests (17-4-1), 21 of their final 27 road games (21-5-1), and 24 of their final 32 road contests (25-6-1).
MORE ON SATURDAY’S GAME ACTION
The Capitals were the team with something to play for – needing a win for home-ice advantage in the first round against the Islanders – but the Rangers roared out to a 3-0 lead by 2:30 of the second period anyway.
Kevin Hayes bounced back from a lackluster individual effort in Thursday’s home loss to Ottawa to swat the 17th goal of the rookie center’s season out of mid-air, opening scoring at 12:36. Captain Ryan McDonagh got the first assist for his point shot that deflected off a Capital’s stick, giving McDonagh eight points in the final eight games of the season after having just eight in his previous 26 matches.
Just as encouragingly, that entire play was set up by veteran right wing Martin St. Louis (two assists) on the initial entry and shot on goal. Elite play from someone like St. Louis is going to be the difference in this postseason between just another playoff run, and a potential Stanley Cup.
St. Louis also forced the turnover that led to the 3-0 Rangers lead at 2:30 of the second period on Moore’s fourth goal in six games – a pretty backhand roof-job with no angle over goalie Braden Holtby’s left shoulder.
Center Derick Brassard had built a 2-0 lead at 15:50 of the first period on a wicked, top-corner power play slapper from the point off assists from Hayes and Dan Boyle. It was Brassard’s 100th goal of his NHL career and his career-high 19th of the season.
Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 53rd goal of the season on the power play in the second period to make it 3-1. The Rangers’ Jesper Fast added a third-period empty-netter at 18:06 for a 4-1 lead before Caps rookie Stanislav Valiev scored his first NHL goal with 28.7 seconds to play.
Henrik Lundqvist shook out his left leg – which he nearly injured Thursday night – following a long stretch toward the puck early in the first period, but he showed no signs of the knee bothering him after. Also in the first period, Fast looked to have re-injured the right knee that caused him to miss most of February due to a sprain, but he remained in the game and was O.K. afterward.
Forward James Sheppard was an absolute pest against the Caps, but it was Tanner Glass (assist) who dropped the gloves at 10:24 of the third period with Washington defenseman Tim Gleason. Gleason broke Glass’ nose and thundered a couple more home, but Glass hung in, got a couple in the other way and was all smiles – and blood – at his locker afterward.
The Rangers could see the Capitals again very soon in the second round of the playoffs if they advance and Washington beats the Islanders.
THE QUOTE SHEET
Captain Ryan McDonagh on what it means to set the regular season wins and points records: “I think it shows what we can do and that everybody’s buying into the system, trusting the structure, trusting the coaching staff, trusting one another, with players in certain roles. You understand mistakes are gonna happen. You’re gonna have stretches where we’re not winning games, but it’s about having faith and being positive and giving ourselves a chance to win.”
McDonagh on whether Rangers were focused on those records or just on playing better than they did Thursday: “I think just playing a little bit better, especially defensively. I thought against Ottawa the game kind of got away from us after the first period, similar defensive stuff. Tonight they had some pretty good looks, too, but I thought against a pretty skilled lineup we did a good job of limiting their looks.”
McDonagh on why Caps didn’t get momentum off Ovechkin’s power play goal: “They’re really lethal there. We were disciplined, you see Shep (James Sheppard) taking some punches and guys taking some hits. We did a good job of keeping our composure and making sure we didn’t give them another opportunity there and tried to get back to our strength of playing well in our zone.”
Girardi on checking Ovechkin for a full game (which he did in an entertaining one-on-one battle): “It’s really hard to shut a guy like that down. He’s a big guy, got me a few times tonight. He’s a big power forward and he’s hard to stop all the time. You just try to limit his chances as best you can, try to play up in his face and not give him too much time to wheel around and come down on those one-on-ones and take that shot or fake a shot. Just play him as hard you can between the whistles.”
Girardi’s hilarious response on breaking the 1994 team’s regular season records: “It’s a great achievement. That’s something to look back on for sure. We want to keep it going the rest of the way, but we’re very happy with what we did this year. We’re gonna enjoy it for the next couple days but then business starts up. One day we’ll look back and get honored at the Rangers’ golf classic.”
Lundqvist on reaching 30 wins, the first NHL goalie ever to do so in nine of his first 10 seasons: “Coming back after two months off I kind of set a personal goal to reach 30 wins. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but we played real well, and I think it really helped me find my game fast. You need structure to come back like that. It was tough the first game and then you kind of build off every period, every game, to have the support and structure we had in these games helped me get my focus back. So I’m prepared and very excited.”
Lundqvist continued: “Being at 25 wins and coming back, I looked at the amount of games I might play and I felt like it was a good challenge. As a goalie you can’t focus too much on wins because you rely on the team, but I need to focus on the details of the game to get there. It was just one of the things about coming back. I wanted to feel good about my game, and I wanted to have my focus in the right place and technically to feel good and to help the team to get more wins. So I’m happy we pulled it off and also happy we really focused these last couple games. I felt like these were important games even though we didn’t have that much to play for. Personally, I wanted to have the same feeling now that I know I’ll have next week. You want to put pressure on yourself to try to win, and it was good to have that.”
The Rangers have off Sunday, and may also have off Monday, but will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for their first-round playoff series.
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