NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Rangers’ clutch victory over the Stanley Cup champions earlier this week would have lost a lot of lustre if New York couldn’t back it up against the struggling Dallas Stars.
The Rangers needed 58 minutes to get ahead—and then spent the final two holding on.
Rick Nash snapped a tie with 1:58 left, and the Rangers sent the Stars to their fifth straight loss, 3-2 on Friday night. New York is 7-2-1 in its last 10, but more importantly, the Rangers followed up their stirring win at Chicago on Wednesday with another one at home.
“We talked about it this morning,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves to earn his second straight win. “It’s always a great feeling when you come up big in the end of a game.”
Nash poked a rebound of Chris Kreider’s shot past goalie Kari Lehtonen to give New York its first lead. Nash has 10 goals this season and three in three games.
“I think it was 50 per cent luck … well, probably 70 per cent luck and 30 per cent skill,” Nash said of his 50th game-winner. “I was just following the puck. It went a little bit higher than anticipated, but luckily it went in.”
Ryan Callahan and Derick Brassard both erased one-goal Rangers deficits, and Brad Richards had two assists to extend his point streak to four games (two goals, four assists).
Ryan Garbutt and Cody Eakin both had a goal and assist, but the Stars remained winless in 2014. Lehtonen stopped 31 shots for Dallas, which went 0-3 on its three-game trip through the New York metropolitan area.
“I thought we skated better,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought we created a little bit more and I thought we were better with the puck. We still have a ways to go, though.”
After being shut out for the first time this season in a 1-0 loss at New Jersey on Thursday, the Stars got their offence on track early—grabbing the lead 4:06 in on Eakin’s ninth goal.
Garbutt outraced Rangers defenceman Marc Staal to a loose puck deep in the New York end and sent a pass back to Eakin in the right circle. Eakin let go a shot that Lundqvist blocked with his arm, but couldn’t control as it found its way in.
Dallas had the lead despite being outshot 8-3 at the time in the sluggish first period that featured multiple icings and frequent faceoffs.
New York tied it with 8:40 left in the period on Callahan’s eighth of the season and first in five games since the Rangers captain returned from a nine-game absence caused by a sprained knee ligament.
Benoit Pouliot kept the puck in the Dallas zone at the right point and got it to Richards, who took a shot. Richards got to his rebound and moved the puck to his right to the streaking Callahan, who snapped in a drive as he was flying to the ice.
Dallas regained the lead 3:34 into the second on Garbutt’s eighth goal. Antoine Roussel sent a pass that Garbutt knocked down with the shaft of his stick. He then jammed the puck between Lundqvist’s pads.
However, the Rangers tied it 2-2 just 4:48 later when Brassard scored a power-play goal on the game’s first advantage. Mats Zuccarello sent a hard shot from above the right circle into the slot where Brassard deflected it past Lehtonen for his seventh of the season and fifth on the power play.
“I didn’t do much. I just shot it. All the credit to him,” Zuccarello said of Brassard. “If it’s there, it’s there. If it’s not there, it’s not there.
“I just shot it. He made a really nice tip. It’s a skill play by him.”
The Rangers, who swept the two-game season series from Dallas, have scored a power-play goal in nine of the past 12 games.
“When a power play works, it keeps the other team honest because they don’t want to see the power play on the ice,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Our power play has been working real well for us. It’s been giving us momentum, it’s been giving us timely goals.”
New York had other scoring chances in the second, including several scrums in front of the net, but couldn’t convert. Nash shot wide on a breakaway, and Richards struck the crossbar with a drive.
NOTES: Callahan had an assist in each of his previous three games. … Stars D Aaron Rome returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. … Garbutt has three goals in his last eight games. … Dallas received its only power play in the third period. … Rangers C J.T. Miller, scratched for the second straight game, is going down to Hartford of the AHL.