The New York Rangers opened with losses in three of their first four, and plenty of their games since have started in similar fashion.
While they might not want to make a habit of relying on comeback wins as the season goes on, beginning with Saturday night’s visit from the Winnipeg Jets, such victories have accounted for nearly all of their recent success.
The Rangers (5-4-0) have won four of five, and three of those wins required them to overcome a deficit entering the third period. The latest and most substantial was Monday’s 5-4 home win over Minnesota after entering the third down 3-0.
Article continues below ...
"It was a big comeback for us," forward Anthony Duclair said. "It speaks to the leadership in this locker room."
Rick Nash is among it. With nine goals, the 30-year-old forward has quieted any concerns of a slip in production.
Nash missed 17 games a season ago due to a second concussion in just under eight months and finished with 0.60 points per game, his worst mark since his rookie year.
Jump ahead a little more than four months from his disappointing postseason, and Nash is on the verge of a double-digit goal total a season after reaching the 10-goal mark Jan. 10. Still, he’s not reading too much into the start.
"It’s just the puck is going in," Nash told the NHL’s official website. "I always found myself a streaky player. I think some of the goals this year, I’m shooting where I wasn’t aiming and it still goes in. A few lucky bounces."
Nash had a goal and an assist against the Wild, while Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists each. Zuccarello had been limited to an assist in his first seven games.
"In the third period Brass, Zucc and Nasher took the game over," coach Alain Vigneault told the team’s official website. "That’s one of the best periods I’ve seen three guys play in a long time. Brass’ line went to work and we got two points."
Another of New York’s stars, Henrik Lundqvist, hasn’t had quite the numbers the team hopes for with a 3.25 goals-against average through eight starts, though he’s bounced back at home. After allowing 12 goals in his first two games at Madison Square Garden, he’s won his last three with a 1.62 GAA.
The past three seasons against the Jets have yielded a 4-2-0 record and 2.01 GAA.
Winnipeg has combated its own slow start with a 3-1-1 stretch, beginning a four-game trip with Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Islanders before a 2-1 shootout loss to New Jersey on Thursday.
Offensively, the Jets (4-5-1) might have hoped for more in the return of Evander Kane. The top-line forward had missed eight games due to a knee injury, and Winnipeg averaged 1.63 goals without him.
Kane missed the visit with the Rangers a season ago but had two goals and an assist in two games at MSG in 2012-13.
"No question, we missed him," coach Paul Maurice said. "He was itching to get back last week, but we’re glad to have him back."
Ondrej Pavelec has been in goal for all of Winnipeg’s wins, and he has a 2.08 GAA over the 3-1-1 stretch. He’s split six starts at MSG with a 2.37 GAA.
The Jets have won seven of the last 10 meetings there dating to their time in Atlanta.
Rangers defenseman John Moore will miss the next five games for an illegal hit to the head of Wild forward Erik Haula.