Rangers defenseman Adam Fox is congratulated by teammates after his goal...

Rangers defenseman Adam Fox is congratulated by teammates after his goal against the Stars during the first period of an NHL game Saturday in Dallas. Credit: AP/Brandon Wade

DALLAS — Dryden Hunt called it "kind of a must-win game.’’

Coming off two straight ugly losses — Tuesday in Minnesota and Thursday in St. Louis — the Rangers needed to produce a better effort Saturday night against the Stars in the final game of their four-game road trip.

And despite giving up two early goals, they managed to do just that, roaring back to score four straight times before the first period was over in a 7-4 victory at American Airlines Center that allowed them to finish the trip at 2-2.

"I think it was kind of a must-win game for us,’’ said Hunt, who had three assists for his first career three-point game. "Although it wasn’t, it kind of was, just for our mental well-being. It was only two games, but it felt like a couple of weeks of just not playing our best. It was a little nerve-wracking there for the first two goals, but just a good answer by us and all around, a pretty good game.’’

Coach Gerard Gallant, who was furious with his team after Thursday’s 6-2 loss in St. Louis, was pleased with what he saw in this one. He agreed with Hunt that the game felt like a must-win.

"I think mentally it was. Yeah, it was an important game,’’ Gallant said. "And if we would have lost 4-3 tonight, and played the way we played, I would have been satisfied. I want to win games every game, but I liked the way the team played. And the last two games prior to this, as you guys know, I wasn’t happy with the way we played, and they weren’t happy.

"But tonight we played the right way. We did the right things. We competed hard. Everybody was involved. It wasn’t five guys or seven guys. It was everybody.’’

The Rangers got goals from big guns Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin (who also had four assists), but they also got a couple from grinding forward Greg McKegg and defensive defenseman Patrik Nemeth. Forward Barclay Goodrow chipped in an insurance goal that made it 6-4 at 14:07 of the third period and Ryan Strome added an empty-netter with 1:37 to play.

The Rangers (37-17-5) moved back into a tie for second place in the Metropolitan Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins (35-15-9).

The Rangers fell behind 2-0 before the game was five minutes old. Stars defenseman Esa Lindell scored 49 seconds in on a backhand shot from a terrible angle that goaltender Igor Shesterkin (29 saves) should have stopped. Tyler Seguin tipped in a shot by Joel Kiviranta at 4:53.

But McKegg — returning to the lineup after missing the previous four games — tipped in K’Andre Miller’s shot for his second goal of the season at 9:45. Zibanejad tied it with a power-play goal at 12:59, seven seconds after Roope Hintz went to the penalty box for hooking Jonny Brodzinski, and Fox and Panarin scored 36 seconds apart to put the Rangers up 4-2 after the first period.

The goal was the first in 16 games for Fox, who went to the net and tipped in a shot by Jacob Trouba at 14:14.

The Stars’ Jason Robertson scored a power-play goal at 7:11 of the second period, but Nemeth made it 5-3 when he drove behind the Stars’ net, reversed, came out behind the left-wing post and jammed in a backhand wraparound at 18:20 of the second.

Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger appeared to stop Nemeth’s shot, but Nemeth jabbed at the puck a second time, and Hunt insisted to the referees that the puck had crossed the goal line. Upon video review, the officials ruled it had, and the goal was good.

More Rangers


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months