All it takes is one good game to build confidence for a team, especially one in the midst of a rough stretch. After tonight's 6-2 win against the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars, the New York Rangers showed their fans, the league, and most importantly themselves, that they can compete with the best that the NHL has to offer.
New York jumped out of the gate early and newcomer Jayson Megna wasted no time with making his presence known in his first regular season game as a Ranger. The winger, who has put up solid numbers in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack, picked up the secondary assist on Derek Stepan's goal just 1:56 into the first period. Megna would add his first goal on Broadway at 13:38 of the final frame.
The first line for New York had a stellar game, combining for seven points with two goals from Stepan, a goal and an assist from Megna, and a three assist night from Rick Nash. The team put forth a cohesive, consistent effort and assuaged the doubts leading into the game regarding the lineup and mentality of the players and coaching staff.
Dallas and New York traded chances throughout the game, but the Rangers shined in the third period while the star-studded Stars faded. The Blueshirts turned their 3-1 lead after 40 minutes into a 6-2 blowout when the final horn sounded. Ten Rangers got on the scoresheet, and many of those who did not played well despite the lack of a paper trail to prove so. This is especially true of Kevin Hayes in his return to the lineup.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 of 23 shots, surrendering goals to John Klingberg and Antoine Roussel. A called goal on the ice from Valeri Nichushkin in the third period was challenged by the Rangers' coaching staff for a perceived offside. New York won the challenge and erased a goal that would have made the game 5-3. Megna scored his goal shortly after, setting the scoreboard to its final reading at 6-2.
The two superstars for the Lone Star team, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, were held off the board and kept in check by the Rangers all night long. The Rangers outshot the Stars 29-23, but more importantly, they generated an abundance of high-quality chances with smart passes, good zone entries, and traffic in front of the net. Keith Yandle's goal resulted from a screen in front of Anntti Niemi and Viktor Stalberg buried his fifth tally of the season off of a rebound.
The Rangers also benefitted from some puck luck, which was a welcome change. Derick Brassard "scored" a goal after a calamity of bounces following his initial shot ricocheted off Niemi and two more bodies in front before bouncing off the post and squeaking past the goal line. At the other end, Benn hit the post on a yawning net after a brilliant check from Marc Staal sent him off balance.
The stars seemed to align in the Rangers favor tonight. Derek Stepan had an amazing night which included the Rangers' first shorthanded goal of the season. The defense was stymieing and generated some fantastic breakout passes leading to odd-man rush goals for Megna and Stepan. Overall, it was a game which should bolster the spirits of the team and its fans. One would hope so as both will have plenty of time to ruminate on it before the Rangers take to the ice next on Saturday afternoon against the league-leading Washington Capitals.