Nash, Vesey lead Rangers to victory
NEW YORK -- For a second game in a row, the New York Rangers found themselves trailing a lesser opponent on home ice and failing to generate anything resembling a consistent offensive attack. They were again down two goals and struggling to get shots on net against a stingy, hard-checking team.
Instead of a fifth straight loss at Madison Square Garden and another uninspired showing, Rick Nash took over in the third period when the Rangers needed it most.
Nash tied the score with a terrific individual effort less than a minute into the final period, then set up left winger Jimmy Vesey’s game-winning power-play goal with 5:12 remaining as the Rangers rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Former Ranger left winger Viktor Stalberg gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead with a pair of first-period goals. Defenseman Nick Holden cut the lead in half in the second period, but the Rangers had only 2 shots through 40 minutes and hardly looked like the speedy team that gave opponents fits through most of the first two months of the season.
That’s when Nash stepped up.
“You are always trying to do that,” Nash said, “but in a game when things aren’t going right -- we had a tough first period -- you try to create a spark any way you can.”
Nash grabbed a loose puck and knifed between Hurricanes defensemen Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey and roofed a backhand shot over goaltender Cam Ward’s glove 24 seconds into the third period, a goal Nash said was “a little lucky” because it ramped off Faulk’s stick.
But with Hainsey in the penalty box late in the third period for four minutes following a tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Nash grabbed a rebound of a shot by defenseman Brady Skjei and slid it to Vesey for the deciding goal.
“It’s definitely what we needed,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We didn’t start the game the way we wanted. There’s no doubt that Rick tonight was the leader of this team with his play. He played the type of game that we needed against a tough opponent.”
The Rangers (16-7-1) came in losers of four of six while the Hurricanes (9-9-4) had won six of eight to climb back toward the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Everything seemed to be going their way when Stalberg scored a soft goal on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to open the game but they couldn’t find a third goal to put the game away.
It was the rare low-scoring win for a Rangers team that was scoring five goals a game somewhat regularly a few weeks ago before the goals began to dry up the past couple weeks.
“We just need to understand that not every game is going to be four, five or six goals,” said Lundqvist, who made 26 saves. “Everything is not going to go our way. I think we noticed the last couple of weeks maybe. It’s a grind. It’s a lot of games. Teams scout us and make it tough to use our speed. We just need to simplify it sometimes and really believe that if we play within our structure, it is going to pay off.”
The Hurricanes had tables turned one game after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Florida Panthers on Sunday and had a hard time swallowing this defeat that dropped them back to .500.
“For two periods, we were by far the better team and didn’t allow much of anything aside from the one goal and a couple other chances on the break,” Stalberg said. “Other than that, they didn’t have any zone time. We were putting pressure on them every single shift. Frustrating ending here.”
“I didn’t think we were dangerous in the third period,” said Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, whose team only had four shots before generating four more in the final minutes with Ward on the bench for an extra attacker. “I didn’t think we generated too much.”
NOTES: The Hurricanes were without C Jordan Staal, who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a concussion. He suffered the injury in the Hurricanes’ previous game Sunday against the Florida Panthers. He is out indefinitely. ... In an odd scheduling quirk, the Hurricanes go to Boston on Thursday for their next game then come back to New York on Saturday afternoon. ... Hurricanes G Eddie Lack (concussion) was scratched. ... Rangers LW and leading scorer Michael Grabner did not play because of illness. ... Rangers D Adam Clendening was a healthy scratch for the 18th time this season.