NEW YORK -- The Rangers did what was necessary to prove that talk of building off their last win was not just idle chatter, downing the visiting Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden for their second straight victory.
Fighting through a game that was rife with whistles and stoppages and devoid of nearly any rhythm, the Rangers outlasted the Stars with a fine extra effort from star winger Rick Nash.
Nash snapped a 2-2 draw as he was toppling to the ice, fighting to fire an off-balance shot that beat Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen with 1:58 left in regulation and saddled the Stars with their fifth straight loss.
In doing so, the Rangers improved to 23-20-3, good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think it was 50 percent luck,” Nash said of his 10th goal of the season. “Well, probably 70 percent luck and 30 percent skill. I was just following the puck and it rolled up. It went a little bit higher than anticipated but luckily it went in.”
The 29-year-old had a strong game against Chicago, too, though his performance didn’t translate on the score sheet. He was able to carry over that play into Friday’s action with his spectacular finish.
“He is playing great,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves on 26 shots faced. “He is so strong with the puck and that goal was huge for us to get that win at home.”
The Brampton, Ontario, native might be feeling a natural boost from earlier this week, when he was named among the elite crop of forwards who will compete for Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, next month. It will be the second Olympic appearance for Nash, who won gold with Team Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, four years ago.
Though he has picked up his game recently, the Rangers will continue to need more from No. 61, especially if they want to banish the rampant inconsistency that dogged them in the first half of the season.
Friday night was a good sign, though, and not just for Nash.
It was a difficult go against the struggling Stars, one in which there were three stoppages in the first 28 seconds and 73 faceoffs in total. Though the Stars’ second line was impressive, there wasn’t much fluidity to the play or much ease in sustaining pressure. Still, the Rangers battled to ensure that a spirited road win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks did not go to waste.
“The fact that we had gone to Chicago and won the game and played real well, we wanted to come home and follow it up,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “It was a grind. It was a hard game to get momentum, to get flow.”
The Rangers will play six of their next seven games at MSG. Next up: the Philadephia Flyers on Sunday, with a concerted emphasis on establishing some semblance of a home-ice advantage.
The last lengthy homestand did not turn out as planned (3-4-2 during a nine-game stretch in December) and the Rangers don’t want to repeat the same mistakes.
“We have a lot of home games coming up, so we need to build some confidence here and feel really good about ourselves playing in this building,” Lundqvist said. “We have been good on the road but we have to start to take care of business at home and gain some confidence here.”