Rick Nash's winner completes comeback in another stirring win for Rangers

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider congratulates left wing

Rangers left wing Chris Kreider congratulates left wing Rick Nash after he scores the winning goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen in the third period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. (Jan. 10, 2014) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

Rick Nash had only one shot in the first 58 minutes of the Rangers-Stars game Friday night.

Then he had a second one, and it was the game-winner.

Falling to the ice in front of the net while battling with Dallas defenseman Aaron Rome, Nash lifted Chris Kreider's rebound over goalie Kari Lehtonen and inside the far post with 1:58 left to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden in the first game of a four-game homestand.

"I think it was 50 percent luck . . . well, probably 70 percent luck and 30 percent skill," Nash said of the deciding play in a game in which the Rangers (23-20-3) came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and went three games over .500 for the first time this season. "I was following the puck and it rolled up. It went a little higher than I anticipated."

Mats Zuccarello disagreed with that ratio: "It's not luck, it's skill."

Whatever the breakdown, the Rangers have been waiting for Nash, who has three goals in the last three games, to catch fire. "You've got to get on the inside," said Nash, who has moved in more regularly from the perimeter. "If you watch the highlights every night, 70 or 80 percent of the goals are from right in front or on screens."

"Nasher comes through, and that's what we need," said Ryan Callahan, who tied the score at 1 in the first period, also by driving to the net. He converted a rebound of Brad Richards' shot that was partially blocked by defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

The Rangers had said that the stirring 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in Chicago on Wednesday wouldn't mean much without a strong follow-up at home, where they were 8-10-3 coming in. But in the first 40 minutes, there were 56 faceoffs, mostly from icings and offsides, making it a grind.

"There were a lot of whistles and it felt slow," Nash said. "Tonight kind of puts the exclamation point on that [Chicago] win."

The Rangers had seven shots on Lehtonen in the first 3:26 of the game, but the Stars -- who have lost five straight -- drew first blood when Ryan Garbutt found Cody Eakin trailing on a play and his quick shot went under Henrik Lundqvist's right arm for a 1-0 lead at 4:06.

Then Benoit Pouliot made a heads-up move to keep a broken play onside and Callahan tied the score at 11:20. On the play, Richards and Callahan extended their point streaks to four games.

The Stars were quicker to the puck at the start of the second period, and the line that scored their first goal capitalized again. Garbutt sped ahead of Anton Stralman to the crease, knocked down Antoine Roussel's pass with his stick and flicked the puck between Lundqvist's pads for a 2-1 lead at 3:34.

When Shawn Horcoff was whistled for holding Ryan McDonagh's stick at 7:52, Derick Brassard scored his eighth of the season and fifth on the power play, redirecting Zuccarello's shot -- on a pass from Richards -- from the right point at 8:22.

It was the second straight multi-point game for Richards, who had a goal and assist in Chicago and now leads the team with 33 points.

The other positive was Lundqvist (24 saves), who has gone 4-1-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. With Nash and Lundqvist surging, there is hope for this homestand.

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