RALEIGH, N.C. – The New York Rangers are playing playoff hockey right now, according to newly acquired Martin St. Louis, who set up Derek Stepan’s winning goal in a 4-2 victory over Carolina on Friday night.
The Rangers rallied from a goal down twice before finally taking the lead on Stepan’s goal with 2:46 left in the game.
“This is how it is played in the playoffs,” St. Louis said. “We want to play like it is the playoffs so we don’t have to turn the switch on when it is the playoffs.”
St. Louis, long a nemesis for the Hurricanes when he played for Tampa Bay, triggered Stepan’s 5-on-3 goal with a stiff pass across the crease that Carolina could not defend. Stepan easily slammed the puck by Carolina goalkeeper Anton Khudobin, who was unable to slide back to the far post for the save.
“When you play in a game, you obviously want to contribute,” St. Louis said. “We dictated the play, but we had trouble getting past the goal line. When you get a 5-on-3 at the end of the game, you’ve got to make it count.”
Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh also scored for the Rangers, who beat Carolina for the 10th straight time. Carl Hagelin added an empty-netter with 41 seconds left in the game.
The game turned in New York’s favour when Carolina took a pair of delay-of-game penalties in the final five minutes. Ron Hainsey went to the box first when he cleared a puck out of play from his defensive zone. And 1:12 later, Brett Bellemore joined him after making the same mistake to give the Rangers the 5-on-3.
Until then, Carolina did its best to hold off the Rangers.
Jeff Skinner scored on a penalty shot in the third period that gave Carolina a 2-1 lead. He was awarded the chance when Anton Stralman was called for obstructing Skinner’s breakaway.
But Carolina’s lead was short-lived as Nash evened the score 2-2 with for his 20th of the season.
“There was a lot of patience,” Nash said. “We stuck with the process and it worked tonight.”
Carolina took its initial lead late in the first period as Jordan Staal scored. That stood until midway through the third period.
Defenceman McDonagh scored short-handed for the Rangers to tie the game with 12:35 left. It was New York’s third short-handed goal in two games after getting a pair in its last game, a 3-2 loss to Toronto.
Carolina’s power-play woes continued as the Hurricanes were 0 for 4, including a 5-on-3 early in the second period. Carolina has gone seven games without a power-play goal, an 0-for-27 span.
Khudobin was outstanding through most of the game, finishing with 40 saves. He just didn’t have enough help down the stretch on the penalty kill.
“Very frustrated,” said coach Kirk Muller. “I thought we did everything we were supposed to do. Having the lead that late you have to be able to hold that off and win the hockey game and we didn’t.”
NOTES—Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves for New York. … Carolina D Andrej Sekera played in his 400th NHL game. … Rangers C Mats Zuccarello returned to the lineup after missing the last four games because of and injured hand suffered while playing for Norway at the Olympics.