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(Thursday, February 28th)
Final Score: NY Rangers 4, Tampa Bay 1
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Rick Nash provided the New York Rangers the lift they needed in his return, registering a goal and an assist to spark a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning that halted the team's season-worst four-game skid.
Nash, who sat out all four matchups during the aforementioned 0-3-1 skid with an undisclosed injury, helped trigger an impressive all-around effort in which the Blueshirts racked up 42 shots and led from start-to-finish.
Ryan McDonagh, sidelined for New York's most recent loss on Tuesday with a facial laceration, was also back and made a contribution, finishing with two assists in the win.
Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Marc Staal also had goals for a Rangers team that received a solid 24-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist.
"When you get a guy like [Nash] back, everyone wants to bring their level up to where he is, which is tough - he is one of the best players in the league," Hagelin remarked. "You can see how he brings size, and how the other team really respects him and starts playing tentative around him."
Martin St. Louis accounted for the lone goal in Tampa Bay's third consecutive loss, with a busy Mathieu Garon recording 38 saves in defeat.
The healthier Rangers, who also got back blueliner Michael Del Zotto from a two-game absence caused by a lower body injury, thoroughly dominated the majority of the first period and built a quick 2-0 lead on goals that came 77 seconds apart.
Hagelin began the flurry by beating Garon with a wicked slap shot near the left circle 7:23 into the contest, and an uncovered Stepan put home a nice look from Ryan Callahan from behind the net shortly afterward to extend New York's advantage.
"You talk about Ryan Callahan; you call him a grinder or a banger," Rangers head coach John Tortorella told the media. "He gets overlooked as far as his offensive abilities and his talents because the other stuff sticks out, but that's always in his game. That's why he's our captain and leads us in how we need to play."
The Lightning had been outshot by a whopping 20-1 margin until St. Louis rushed to the front of the net to deftly redirect Eric Brewer's pass and cut Tampa's deficit in half with 3:51 remaining in the opening session.
"If it wasn't for [Garon], it could have been 6-0," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos.
New York continued to control the action in the second period, however, and restored a two-goal edge with a power-play tally with just under four minutes left in the frame.
With Tampa Bay's Alexander Killorn in the box on an interference call, the Rangers' J.T. Miller hit the post trying to stuff a shot underneath Garon following a failed clear attempt by the Lightning. Staal then raced in to poke in the loose puck and put the Rangers up by a 3-1 count.
Lundqvist thwarted any Tampa Bay comeback hopes by turning aside all 14 shots he faced in the third period, most notably a breakaway attempt by Killorn with less than two minutes elapsed in the stanza, and Nash later put the game away by converting an odd-man rush with Brad Richards 1:33 prior to the final horn.
The Rangers did play without defenseman Matt Gilroy due to a bout with the flu, while veteran blueliner Sami Salo sat out for Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury sustained in Tuesday's loss to Buffalo ... The Rangers have now taken all three meetings between the teams this season while outscoring the Lightning by a 12-4 margin in those tests ... Hagelin has now amassed four goals and two assists in the season series, with Nash having put up three goals and two helpers ... Stamkos had a six-game goal-scoring streak snapped, but recorded a point for an eighth straight outing by assisting on St. Louis' score. He has seven goals and seven assists during that time frame ... The Lightning fell to 1-7-0 against Atlantic Division opponents ... To make room for Nash, the Rangers sent rookie forward Chris Kreider to AHL Connecticut prior to the game.
02/28 23:32:14 ET