RALEIGH, N.C. – The New York Rangers are on such a good run that demanding coach John Tortorella is having trouble finding anything to complain about.
Ryan McDonagh, Marian Gaborik and Sean Avery scored in a 4:53 span of the second period, and the Rangers rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 on Thursday night for their fourth straight win.
New York has won 11 times in 13 games.
“I’m happy with the club because they’re playing really well right now as a team,” Tortorella said. “I think that’s the way we can try to sustain this.”
The way knocked off the Hurricanes proved Tortorella’s point.
Not only did 14 Rangers players post points, but with New York nursing a two-goal lead in the waning minutes, John Mitchell and Derek Stepan both sacrificed their bodies and lunged to block shots. Mitchell’s effort earned him special praise from his teammates because the puck struck him just above the right eye.
Mitchell joked about the play after the game, lamenting that he let the puck hit him in the face. Tortorella said the effort it was representative of New York’s attitude.
“It starts with our leadership,” Tortorella said. “If you look at Ryan Callahan, who is wearing the C, he does all of that stuff. I think it just grows within the team. When you’re winning as we are now, people just buy into it.”
Callahan and defenceman Michael Sauer had the other goals for the Rangers. Martin Biron made 28 saves in a spot start for No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
New York (14-5-3) remained three points behind Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh, but the Rangers have played four fewer games than the Penguins.
Derek Joslin, Jeff Skinner and Jiri Tlutsy scored goals for Carolina, winless in two games under new coach Kirk Muller. Muller replaced the fired Paul Maurice on Monday, and the Hurricanes lost 3-1 to Florida in his debut behind the bench Tuesday night.
Cam Ward made 22 saves for the Hurricanes (8-15-4), who have lost five in a row and are last in the Southeast Division.
“No one said this is going to change overnight,” Muller said. “We’ve got to do baby steps.”
Carolina started well when Tlutsy scored off a faceoff 35 seconds into the game. Even though the Rangers answered a little more than a minute later, the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission when Skinner scored on a slap shot with nine seconds remaining in the period.
The Rangers took control of the game with three quick goals midway through the second.
McDonagh struck first when he tied the score at 2-2 with a wrist shot from the left circle that deflected off of Joslin’s stick.
Gaborik converted on a 2-on-1 break that Rangers defenceman Jeff Woywitka started with a pass to Artem Anisimov up the ice. Anisimov fed Gaborik, who beat Ward with a wrist shot high on the glove side.
“It was a nice outlet pass by Jeff,” Gaborik said. “It was pretty much an open net.”
Avery gave the Rangers a two-goal lead off a pass from Gaborik. Avery also beat Ward high to the glove side for his third goal this season and second against the Hurricanes.
“It’s going to take a little time,” Muller said. “They’re trying, but there’s a couple little situations where there was some confusion. And then there’s the other part where you just can’t get beat one-on-one.”
Carolina cut the deficit to 4-3 when Joslin wristed a shot from the blue line that bounced off the stick of New York forward Ruslan Fedotenko and between Biron’s legs. The Hurricanes’ Eric Staal had an assist on the play and has scored points in three straight games for the first time this season.
Sauer restored the Rangers’ two-goal cushion in the third period with a slap shot that beat a screened Ward to the glove side again.
NOTES: Carolina added John MacLean to Muller’s coaching staff earlier Thursday. … Tuomo Ruutu recorded his 100th assist with the Hurricanes on Joslin’s goal. … New York’s Brian Boyle and Carolina’s Anthony Stewart fought in the third period after Boyle caught Skinner with his head down and checked him into the boards. Stewart got an extra penalty for instigating the fight. … Avery has three goals in 11 games this season after netting only three in 76 games last season.