Despite letting up in the final frame and allowing the Lightning to pull within one goal, the Rangers held on for a crucial 4-3 road win over Tampa Bay on Sunday night with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist back in net.
Fueled by a season-high three power-play goals, the Rangers knocked off the high-flying Bolts to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night. Winger Mats Zuccarello figured into all three man-up markers, finishing the night with a goal and two assists, while Henrik Lundqvist picked up a win in his first start since December 20, after which coach Alain Vigneault gave backup netminder Cam Talbot three consecutive starts.
Lundqvist yielded three goals -- the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner has allowed three or more goals in his last eight starts -- but was extremely sharp in the third period.
Power surge: Down 2-1, the Rangers rattled off a trio of power-play goals to take a cushy 4-2 lead in the middle frame. Zuccarello was credited with the Rangers’ first man-up marker of the night, one that went in off a Lightning skater. He then set up both Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot on the man-advantage in the second period. Since being scratched earlier this month, Pouliot has responded with strong improvement in his game. With a goal in Sunday’s win, Pouliot has a career-high seven-game point streak.
Slump snapped: Held without a goal in seven straight games, Rangers winger Rick Nash halted his lengthy skid early in the first period. Burying a beautiful feed from Derek Stepan, Nash gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 4:30. The Rangers need those top-six forwards to produce and both players have a bit of extra incentive as well. Nash and Stepan are expected to compete for spots on the Canadian and U.S. Olympic teams, respectively. Nash now has seven goals this season, though he missed approximately six weeks after sustaining a concussion in October. Alternate captain Brad Richards is still stumbling through his slump, however, despite the offensive outburst. The 33-year-old veteran has now gone 10 consecutive games without a goal.
Rookie move: Defenseman Conor Allen made his NHL debut Sunday night, having been called up to replace an injured Anton Stralman (wrist) in the lineup, and he showed some strong offensive upside in the process. The 23-year-old Chicago native moved the puck well and even fired off a sharp wrist shot on his first shift.