Nash lifts Rangers over Kings
NEW YORK — The story of Rick Nash’s season has been the inability to finish on an abundance of great scoring chances. The 33-year-old entered Friday with just eight goals on 97 shots, tied for the 21st most in the league, and a shooting percentage about four points below his career numbers.
But with the game on the line against the Los Angeles Kings, Nash picked an opportune time to score his ninth goal.
Nash’s unassisted goal with 3:27 remaining in regulation broke a tie and helped vault the New York Rangers to a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Nash had multiple dangerous opportunities to score in the first period but was unable to finish.
“In the first period, he had three great looks,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “He wasn’t able to hit the net and bury it. But at the right time, he came up real big for us.
“I know that those guys are supposed to score but there’s other parts of the game he was doing real well. First period, he had a big blocked shot. This is a 200-foot game and our offensive guys have to put the pucks in the net, but they also have to play that full game.”
“It was a fun game to play and a big win,” said New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 33 shots. “(Nash) after a couple big chances in the first got the big one in the end, so it was great to see how he battled through this game.”
The Rangers (17-12-3) were coming off a regulation loss in Ottawa to the lowly Senators on Wednesday night and had lost three of four entering Friday. The importance of these midseason games has become magnified after the Rangers’ rough start to the season but they were able to raise their game against one of the top teams in the league.
“I thought we played pretty much as close to a full 60 (minutes) as we have all season,” Nash said.”
The Kings (20-10-3) were playing their first game since having their eight-game winning streak snapped by the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and found themselves in an early hole.
New York’s power play ended a five-game drought when a shot by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk bounced off Chris Kreider in front of the net and past goaltender Jonathan Quick at 10:23 of the first period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was an important goal in an opening period that was otherwise controlled by the Kings.
Marian Gaborik’s fifth goal in 11 games this season at 3:46 of the second period pulled Los Angeles even, but Kevin Hayes answered for the Rangers with 5:17 remaining in the period to restore the lead.
The back-and-forth theme continued into the third period, as Torrey Mitchell knotted the game at 2 midway through the period before Nash gave the Rangers the lead for good. The Kings swarmed for the tying goal in the final minutes with Quick on the bench for an extra skater, but J.T. Miller sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 53.4 seconds remaining.
It was a hard loss to swallow for the Kings, who felt they were entitled to a better fate.
“I think we deserve to win games,” defenseman Drew Doughty said, “and we were winning the game at times. I wasn’t disappointed with our effort; everyone was working their bags off. We were executing well. It’s a frustrating loss but we have to move on because we have a quick turnaround (against the Islanders on Saturday).”
“Late in the game, we should be in a position to get points,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “We played better but unforced errors ended up costing us points.”
The Rangers have an even quicker turnaround, as they have to visit the Boston Bruins late Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t have much time to enjoy this one,” Nash said. “We have to get some rest, get re-energized and get right back it.”
NOTES: Kings LW Marian Gaborik played in his 1,000th career regular-season game. The 35-year-old played 255 games with the Rangers between 2009 and 2013. ... The Kings scratched D Oscar Fantenberg, LW Andy Andreoff and C Jonny Brodzinski. ... Rangers C Mika Zibanejad (concussion) missed his eighth consecutive game and is not expected to play Saturday when the Rangers visit the Boston Bruins. ... Rangers D Steven Kampfer was a healthy scratch.