NEW YORK – The Rangers did plenty of talking Sunday afternoon after their unacceptable overtime loss to the woeful Devils.
Monday night they put those words into actions, delivering their most complete 60-minute effort of the season, snapping their three-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over the Sharks.
“It’s urgency,” said forward Rick Nash of what changed. “Good teams don’t let these things slide. They stop ‘em right away. I believe we’re a good team, and we were urgent to turn it around.”
“Just a matter of putting a 60 minute hockey game together,” said forward Derek Stepan. “As I said yesterday afternoon, we’d done some good things, we just haven’t got a full game in. Tonight, you see when we do put a full game together we’re a pretty good hockey team.”
“We lost pretty much every facet of the game,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer. “There’s a price to pay to win, and the other team was more willing to pay that price tonight than us. We got what we deserved.”
Many of the Rangers’ struggling players were among their top performers during the slump-busting win. Nash was held without a goal for the seventh straight game this season, but he set the screen on Mats Zuccarello’s power play goal in the second period, and might have been their best player.
“I’ve felt good all year,” Nash said. “I feel like I’ve had my legs, I had my strength, I had the energy, the chances were there. Tonight I thought our line just had a lot more chemistry than we’ve had in the past.”
Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein led the balanced attack on defense, limiting San Jose’s shot attempts while getting involved offensively throughout the contest.
“We wanted to stop the losing streak, stop the bleeding,” McDonagh said. “At the same time, just wanted to play well as a team and have everybody contribute in different ways, not just have half of our team going in a game. Tonight we had everybody going, contributing in different ways.”
“Everyone in the room knows that the level we were playing at isn’t acceptable and it’s something that we wanted to take care of,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who scored the team’s first goal of the game. “You know we’re playing a good team in San Jose coming in here, and it was a good test for us. We had a good effort. That’s more of the way we wanted to play, and now we have to keep doing that consistently.”
In all, the team looked engaged, getting in on the forecheck while making smart decisions with the puck. Goaltender Antti Raanta made his team debut, earning his fourth-career shutout with a 22-save performance.
“It’s nice to get this kind of start. I knew what [former Rangers goalie] Cam Talbot [did] here last year. Everybody’s comparing me to him. That’s how it goes in the hockey world. Everybody’s always expecting that you have to be better than the last one was,” Raanta said. “It was fun to start like this, but there’s still a little bit something more we have to work on. It wasn’t the perfect game, but it was a nice win.”
“He’s been working extremely hard, and I know he’s been waiting for this opportunity,” coach Alain Vigneault said of Raanta. “He came out, and you could feel this morning that he wasn’t nervous. He was looking forward to the challenge; he was upbeat. I thought, for the most part, the guys played real well in front of him.”
“I think it was our all-around defensive game,” Nash said. “We have to help our goalies out a lot more than we have in the first couple games. I think we’re finally understanding that all our offense comes from good defense.”
It was a complete 180-degree turn from Sunday’s no-show, a performance that had Vigneault and his players searching for answers during a late-morning meeting on Monday at the Garden. They got their answers – and then some — during a spirited effort that kept the team from losing its fourth straight game, something they haven’t done since December, 2013.
“We wanted to win, that was the biggest thing,” McDonagh said. “We were upset with the way we were playing in these losses; not giving ourselves a chance. Today, we put together close to a full game of playing the way we want to play within our structure and giving ourselves a chance offensively.”
The Rangers, who led 2-0 after two periods, improved to 153-1-9 since Feb. 6, 2010 when leading after two periods.
Jesper Fast scored his first goal of the season early in the third period, and Viktor Stalberg scored his first goal as a Ranger with 3:16 left to wrap up the scoring.
The Rangers improved to 12-1-1 in the second leg of their last 14 back-to-back sets.