Tuesday night after their fourth straight loss to Winnipeg at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers were discussing the energy they displayed in the third period. They came up short and said it was a matter of time to get back in the win column.
Partly due to injuries, Rick Nash in particular, there has been a lack of intensity and scoring but Thursday night with Nash back on the ice at home there was renewed optimism. The star forward returned with a career high 12- shots and scored a third period goal as New York defeated Tampa Bay, 4-1.
“He is such a good one- on- one player with his range and reach,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella about his star player. Nash got a huge ovation when he took the ice for the first time from the sold-out Garden crowd that has not had much to cheer about since his absence.
The Rangers went 0-3-1 in the four games Nash missed due to the injury. To say the least, his presence was more of a momentum builder than that third period of Tuesday night. And, New York came into the game Thursday night tied for 29th in the league with the power play.
The win was encouraging as the Rangers scored two goals in the first period. And they are 6-0-0, when leading after the opening stanza, another good sign. With Nash back that can only get better, assuming he stays healthy after sitting out with a supposed concussion.
“We have to get streaky,” commented Nash who was part of that first period where the Rangers held Tampa Bay to three shots. “I think if we just build momentum off of tonight and carry it into the next one, we were doing a lot of good things so I think we will be fine,” he said.
The return of defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto also provided an added boost that had been missing. “Three main cards,” said Tortorella who put Nash in that equation. McDonagh added two assists.
New York outshot the Lightning, 42-25, which was another aspect to breaking the losing streak. There have two more games at the Garden on this current home stand, Sunday with Buffalo and Tuesday against the Flyers.
The win moved the Rangers a point ahead of Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference and gave them a season series sweep.
“He was unbelievable,” commented Henrik Lundqvist regarding the return of Nash. “He did everything out there and it’s impressive. But, at the same time I know how good he is so it doesn’t surprise me. It’s tough to come back and play a game like that but great players can do that.”
On the return of Nash, McDonah and Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan said, “You get guys back like that and obviously it helps our lineup. It’s an important thing and it gives you energy. You can see what all those guys that came back bring to the lineup and it helps us.”
The first period saw that energy. And as Callahan said, “It’s just a matter of going on the ice and doing it and putting a full sixty minutes together. We had spurts of it, but I think that first period was definitely our identity and what we try to create here and how we have to play.”
And of course, having a star like Nash on the ice can only make a team that much better. Now it is a question, can the Rangers take this latest momentum to the ice on Sunday?
“We’re just going to go out and do our business and take it a game at a time,” said Tortorella.
Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com