VANCOUVER - Martin St. Louis broke the spell and clinched a win.
After not scoring for 14 games after the trade from Tampa, St. Louis took a pass from Rick Nash on a 2-on-1 shorthanded break and beat Eddie Lack from the right circle at 10:15 of the third period to provide the Blueshirts with their final goal in a 3-1 victory over the Canucks Tuesday night.
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When asked if he was relieved to finally score, St. Louis said, "Oh, for sure. Fifteen games is as long a drought that I've had in a while. You try to stay the course and play the right way. I'm excited to get the first one. The first one is the hardest to get. It's a big momentum swing."
Immediately after the goal, Vancouver coach John Tortorella, who remains close with St. Louis, as the two spent years together with the Lightning, just shook his head and smiled ruefully at the back-breaker.
But with 44 seconds left, the Rangers got a major scare when Ryan McDonagh was crushed into the boards and appeared to hurt his left shoulder on a late hit from Alex Burrows, who drew a five-minute major.
McDonagh, the team's best defenseman, crumpled to the ice in pain, holding his left arm close to his body.
The arm was put in a sling, but a team spokesman said that the initial diagnosis is that the injury is not serious.
McDonagh did travel with the team to Denver, where he will be re-examined.
"We'll know more tomorrow," coach Alain Vigneault said.
Said Brad Richards: "It's not a good thing to see him laying on the ice, he's probably been our best player for the past two months, night in and night out, but he's resilient and he battles through a lot. Hopefully, it's short term."
St. Louis' goal was the third shorthanded goal in the past two games for the Rangers, who set a franchise record for road wins (25) and rose to 43-30-4 and 90 points. That's three points clear of the Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Rangers, who have won eight of 10 games and are 2-1 on this four-game Western trip that ends in Colorado Thursday, have five games remaining. The Flyers, who lost, 1-0, in a shootout to the Blues, have 87 points and seven games left.
With the Washington Capitals losing, the most points that Washington can amass is 93. So with 90 points, the Rangers' magic number is three, meaning they need three points in the next five games to clinch a postseason berth.
In Vigneault's first regular-season game in the city where he coached for seven years before joining the Rangers, the Blueshirts jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 4:59 of the first period. McDonagh's dump caused a scrum in front, with whacks by Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle, who poked the puck from under Lack's glove, and Dan Carcillo popped it in at 4:59.
When Tom Sestito was whistled for tripping St. Louis at 13:29, the Rangers cashed in on the power play. Lack deflected Mats Zuccarello's shot into the left corner and Derick Brassard quickly found Benoit Pouliot in front for his 13th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead. It was the second consecutive game in which the power play had clicked after a 1-for-22 stretch.
With the assist, his 37th, Zuccarello set the record for points in a season by a Norwegian with 54. Espen Knutsen had 53 in 2000-01 with Columbus. Boyle's assist was the 100th of his career.
Henrik Lundqvist totaled 34 saves for the Rangers, who may have a more relaxed St Louis moving forward.
"Knowing the stress he's put on himself, it's good to get off the schneid." Richards said. "He'll come to the rink as professional as usual but a little lighter in his step."