Nash, Rangers shock Lightning in 4-1 win
by Michael Rappaport/Correspondent
The Rangers have been searching for their identity – the formula that made them a contender in the Eastern Conference a year ago. Last night, they found it.
Rick Nash scored a goal and added an assist in his return to the Blueshirts lineup, Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves, and the Rangers snapped a four-game skid by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-1.
It’s no coincidence that the Rangers’ skid ended on the night when Nash – who missed the last four games with undisclosed injuries – got back on the ice.
“Nash immediately had an impact,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. “He’s such a good 1-on-1 player with his range, and his reach.”
Buoyed by the returns of Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Del Zotto, the Blueshirts jumped on the Lightning right off the bat. New York held a 20-3 shot advantage after twenty minutes, and led 2-1 on goals from Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan.
“You want to make sure you come out strong,” captain Ryan Callahan said. “We jumped on them early and got off to a lead, which we needed at home.”
The Blueshirts’ dominant effort continued in the second period. Tampa Bay only mustered eight shots in the middle frame, and Marc Staal’s powerplay goal with 3:52 remaining in the period gave the Rangers a two-goal cushion.
Although he only faced 11 shots in the first two periods, Lundqvist stood tall when the Lightning began to put pressure on the Rangers during the final twenty minutes. The Rangers netminder made 14 saves, and more importantly, prevented Tampa Bay from cutting the deficit to one.
“The start of the (third) period was really important,” Lundqvist said. “One goal can change the whole game, and you can just tell the first two minutes they were coming.
“I was prepared for them to play their strongest in the third because they didn’t have much in the first two periods.”
In the game’s final minutes, Nash – who fired 12 shots on goal during the contest – tallied his fourth goal of the year to round out the scoring.
Despite the superb effort, Nash was coy about how he felt after missing four games. “I felt ok,” the Rangers’ hulking winger said. “My timing was a bit off. It wasn’t there 100 percent but it was pretty good.”
The Rangers performance reflected how good they could be when they play with their identity. However, Tortorella recognized that the victory over the Lightning was just a start towards finding their game.
“I’m not going to predict how good we are or how bad we are,” the Rangers bench boss said. “We’re just going to stay within ourselves and go day-to-day.”
Which is precisely what the Rangers identity is all about.
GAME NOTES: Arron Asham missed his fourth straight game due to back spasms. The Rangers prevented Steven Stamkos from extending his six-game goal-scoring streak, which was the longest for any player so far this season. Hagelin’s goal was his seventh of the season, tying him with Marian Gaborik for the team lead. The Blueshirts were 38-19 on face-offs. The Rangers swept the season series against the Lightning, going 3-0-0, and are 19-4-2 against the Southeast Division dating back to the start of last season. Chris Kreider was sent to Connecticut (AHL) before the game.