Nash tallied twice in the third to help the Rangers collect their third straight win, electrifying teammates and fans alike as he dazzled with his speed and skill.
In his first multigoal game as a Ranger, Nash delivered a couple of beauties in his third game back from injury.
Nash snapped a 2-2 draw in the third period, streaking down the right wing to score on the rush at 2:50. Midway through the final frame, he notched another goal with a slick move to beat Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
The crowd at Madison Square Garden went bonkers at the team’s sparkling new addition and it wasn’t even just when he scored. Every time he got the puck in open ice, fans buzzed with anticipation.
“That’s my job. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Nash said. “These fans are great. It’s fun for me to play in front of a sold-out building in a hockey city that truly loves the Rangers. I think it’s fun for our whole team to perform in front of these fans.”
Fun was a needed change of pace from the grisly scene earlier in the third.
An uneasy silence settled in the building when Marc Staal was pegged in the eye with a tipped puck, sending the 26-year-old defenseman down to the ice writhing in pain. Staal was flailing in distress as he lay facedown, dripping blood on the ice. He eventually skated off on his own, but did not return to the game.
“That was scary,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished the night with 23 saves. “He was in a lot of pain. It was tough to focus after that.”
The Rangers did, though, and matched their season-high winning streak as a result.
Without Nash for four games from February 19 to 26, the Rangers went 0-3-1. Since he has returned to the lineup, they have not lost. And Nash seems to be finding his comfort zone in his first season on Broadway. Nash has four goals and six points in the past three games.
“He’s been pretty important to us, especially since the injury,” said coach John Tortorella. “Since he’s come back, he’s really ignited us.”
The 6-4, 213-pound winger, acquired in a blockbuster trade from Columbus this summer, continues to be the type of impact player the Rangers had hoped for when they sacrificed some pivotal role players to make the deal.
“He is such a dynamic player and he’s a game-breaker,” said defenseman Dan Girardi, who picked up the lone assist on Nash’s first goal of the night. “He had a couple of big goals there in the third period.
“That’s why we had to trade away a lot of guys to get a player like that,” Girardi continued. “He has been big for us and I expect big things from him.”
After Tuesday’s performance, so does everyone else.