Richards, power play lift Rangers vs. Canes

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers didn’t get off to a great start against the Carolina Hurricanes. A blunder in the early minutes put them in an early hole, while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist saved them from an even bigger deficit.

But when veteran center Brad Richards knotted the score at 1 with a power-play goal with 4:16 remaining in the first period, the game shifted and the playoff-bound Rangers took control.

Richards faked a pass to Rick Nash and Cam Ward swallowed the bait, leaning to cover Nash backdoor and allowing Richards plenty of time to rip a shot from the left faceoff dot. It was a critical goal, not just to tie the game, but to get a dipping power-play back in business.

The Rangers entered Tuesday night’s action 0-for-7 with the man-advantage over the last two games but finished the night with an impressive 2-for-3, an encouraging sign with the playoffs looming.

“It’s big for us to get that going,” said Lundqvist, who made 27 saves. “It’s such a big part of the game, especially going into the playoffs when games are going to be tight. We have a lot of skill there and they showed it tonight. Hopefully we can build on some confidence there and keep it going.”

With the Rangers ahead 2-1 in the second period, Richards notched his second man-up marker of the night, unleashing a slap shot that gave New York a two-goal lead against a defeated ‘Canes team that failed to muster any comeback effort.

With his multi-goal performance, Richards also recorded the tenth 20-goal season of his career and second as a New York Ranger. That achievement seems particularly notable given Richards’ significant struggles last season -- a severely disappointing year that saw him demoted to the fourth line and later benched for the last two games of the playoffs.

With 20 goals and 51 points in 80 games this season, Richards has bounced back in a big way.

“When you’ve done it, I don’t know how many times now, you look at that as being nice to get there. Especially with [this] March being a little dry,” Richards said. “It’s just nice this time of year to be involved in scoring.

Sustained success for both Richards and the power play will be essential as the Rangers approach the first round of the playoffs beginning next week. And considering that their first-round foes will most likely be the Philadelphia Flyers, whose success hinges largely on their special teams, those contributions become even more vital.

“We understand how important special teams are going to be down the stretch and in the playoffs,” said Martin St. Louis.