NEW YORK – It’s not that things were getting stagnant, it’s that there were a few guys not pulling their weight. Sometimes, change is needed.
So in the second period, with the Rangers floundering in both zones, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault switched things up. Chris Kreider, who had been skating on the second line was moved to the top line. Anthony Duclair, who started with Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis, was moved all the way down to the fourth line and had just one shift in the third period. Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello were reunited.
“I thought it was fine, I thought it created some momentum,” said Nash, who scored the game-deciding goal in the shootout to snap the Rangers’ three-game losing streak. “He switched the combinations up, I’m kind of used to that throughout my career, so I think it was a great coaching move by him.”
“Sometimes you just got to shuffle the deck a little bit,” said Vigneault, who made more moves in the third period, moving Martin St. Louis to the wing and sliding rookie center Kevin Hayes to the top line with Nash. “Took Marty away from the center position there, tried a few different combinations, sometimes you just got to see what can happen, and see what might click.”
“Personally, I like it when the flow of a game’s not going the way you want it, you switch things up,” said Nash, who didn’t score in regulation or overtime for the first time this season.
Even after the moves were made, the Rangers allowed the first goal of the game, a seeing-eye shot by Chris Terry that deflected off Kevin Klein, changed directions and fooled Henrik Lundqvist (29 saves). But the Rangers tied the game in the third when Dan Girardi’s drive from the point took a double deflection – first off Zuccarello, then off Brassard.
“After the first, we weren’t real happy in the room,” said Brassard, who’s scored in three straight games. “We just talked to each other and we took the game to them. In the third period, we used our speed and you could tell their defensemen were a little tired by the end of the game. I liked the way we stayed positive on the bench, we stuck together.”
“Right now, a win is a win and two points is two points,” said Vigneault. “Our goalie stepped up at the right time, stepped up in the shootout, our best scorer scored in the shootout. Got to find ways to win and get two points, that’s what we did tonight.”
The Rangers didn’t play a perfect game – far from it. But they were better in the second than they were during a nightmare first, and they did what they had to during a sometimes-jittery third period of a game they felt they had to have.
“No, there was desperation,” Brassard said when asked if it was too early for that. “Coming to the rink every day and you’re losing, it’s not fun. The last couple days were tough. I think we showed a lot of character coming into the third like that.”
“I think right now you need every point you can get,” Lundqvist said after stopping all three shots he faced in the shootout to help ensure the win. “Just because we had a great comeback last year doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this year. We need to be on our toes and start getting points and stay in the race from the get go.”
Maybe the Rangers win the game without Vigneault switching things up. But for the second-year Rangers coach, one thing was certain – something had to give.
“I was looking to find nine guys that I felt could give us a little spark,” Vigneault said. “I wanted to see what Malone could do a little bit more there with Brassard and Zuccarello. [Kreider] was fighting it a bit, so I was just trying to find nine guys that could give me a little more there.”
“I think it’s the first time he’s switched his lines during the game [this season],” Brassard said. “It just gives you – different linemates, it gives you a different look to your team. I think it [gave] us some momentum in the second when he did that.”
“You want to come into this building and feel confident and know we can play really well here,” Lundqvist said of getting the team’s first home win. “It’s such a great atmosphere when we do win here. That’s what tonight was all about.”
The Rangers have won 12 of the last 13 meetings against the Hurricanes, and 13 of the last 15. They’ve won seven straight meetings at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers power play was 0-for-5, and is now 0-for-16 this season.
Lundqvist is 9-1-0 in his last ten games against the Hurricanes, with a 1.66 GAA and a .946 sv%.