Rick Nash and the Rangers appear to be rounding into form, so far rolling through a strong road trip to give them four straight wins overall.
New York’s recent record against the Carolina Hurricanes is considerably more impressive, as it goes for a 13th win in 14 meetings Saturday night at Raleigh in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Rangers (15-10-4) beat Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary in a four-night span, outscoring those teams 12-3. The red-hot Nash was the difference again Tuesday, scoring twice to lead New York past the Flames 5-2.
Nash has a career-best 11-game point streak, recording eight goals and six assists. He tied Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for the longest run in the NHL this season.
The Rangers are 8-3-0 during Nash’s scoring streak.
”We need him to play the way he is,” coach Alain Vigneault said. ”We’re no different than any other team in the league. You need your top players to be your top performers, and that’s what Rick is doing for us right now.”
Nash has 20 goals, tying him for second in the league.
”The biggest thing is (center Derek) Stepan is making great plays, and I’m getting lucky with pucks going around the boards,” said Nash, whose three short-handed goals are one shy of NHL leader Tyler Toffoli of Los Angeles. ”It’s one of those things you don’t want to think about too much when they’re going right.”
Stepan had a goal and an assist Tuesday. He has eight goals and seven assists in his last 10 games against Carolina.
The Rangers could be getting some additional help with Nash’s regular center, Derick Brassard, skating with the team Friday after a five-day isolation period due to the mumps and a possibility to return to the lineup. Brassard, who missed two games with the disease that is sweeping the NHL, leads New York with 16 assists and is second with 24 points.
The Rangers, though, haven’t had much trouble defeating Carolina lately regardless of who’s on the ice. New York has posted a 44-24 goal advantage during its 12-1-0 stretch in the series.
The only loss in that span, however, came at Raleigh on March 11 by a 3-1 score. Cam Ward made 24 saves for the Hurricanes, who had lost six in a row at home to the Rangers.
Carolina (9-19-3) is also coming off a victory that lifted it out of the NHL cellar, beating visiting Toronto 4-1 on Thursday to snap a six-game skid. Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera each had a goal and assist, while Ward made 25 saves as the Hurricanes moved a point up on Edmonton.
The club had scored one goal in each of the six consecutive defeats, but it carried the play throughout, outshooting the Maple Leafs 37-26 and grabbing a 2-0 lead after one period.
”It’s huge any time you can get off to a good start,” Faulk said. ”We were ready to go from the beginning. When you’re like that you can usually jump on teams and swing things in your favor.”
The Rangers took the first matchup of the season 2-1 in a shootout at home Oct. 16, with Lundqvist stopping 29 shots. He’ll make the start Saturday, and Vigneault wouldn’t confirm a starter for Sunday’s finale of the home-and-home set, with backup Cam Talbot likely to play.
Lundqvist has gone 8-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average in his past nine starts against Carolina.