All of a sudden, the goal-starved Rangers have morphed into the late-1990s Red Wings.
Go figure. In the last five periods, the Rangers have scored 14 goals. In the previous 10 periods, they had managed one.
A game after overpowering the Montreal Canadiens, 6-2, the Blueshirts took a 3-1 lead after the first on goals by Brandon Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury. After Dan Girardi's long, screened shot eluded Antero Niittymaki's glove at 5:23 of the second, Enver Lisin buried a loose puck into a half-open net for a 5-1 lead at 15:39 to prod Tampa coach Rick Tocchet to bring in Dustin Tokarski.
Marc Staal beat Tokarski on one of the numerous odd-man rushes off turnovers, Aaron Voros, who also had two fights, scored his first of the season on a power play midway through the third and Chris Higgins finished it off. Marion Gaborik tied his career high with four assists.
The last time the Rangers (24-19-7) had seven goals was against the Blue Jackets on Nov. 23, right before Thanksgiving. Last night, they feasted on a Tampa team that had played Monday night in Carolina and appeared weary.
"It was just a matter of us getting ready again with the same emotion and same start for this game, in the same way we finished the game against Montreal, and we were successful for a change," said Prospal, who also set up Dubinsky's opening goal. "We had 'D' stepping in and guys like Lis and Higgins getting goals. It's just a great confidence builder if you can score in bunches."
It was the second straight game that Henrik Lundqvist had a well-deserved cushion. But he said he couldn't really relax until Staal's goal at 6:04 of the third. "We take two penalties on one shift late in the second and it's a five-on-three, they score to make it 5-2. We blew a three-goal lead before so going into the third, I didn't feel safe. Getting the sixth one, I said, 'OK, now it's over.' "
From the start, the Rangers were active and physical. "The way we forechecked was a carry-over, how physical we were, knocking guys off the puck, that was something we had success with in the last game," Staal said. "When we were on their 'D' and hit them hard on the first shift, it makes them think twice to see if guys are coming. We did that all game long."
One of the more physical Rangers was the little-used Voros, who had been a healthy scratch for 18 of 20 games before dressing for the last three. He dropped the gloves with Zenon Konopka at the 10-second mark and traded punches with Ryan Malone with 5:32 left.
"We're at home and I tried to set the tone," Voros said. "In the third, I tried to stay away from it, but after I scored, I was maybe overzealous at the glass, so I understand that. Look, I love being a Ranger and if that's what Torts needs me to do, then I'll do whatever it takes to be a part of it. I think we've got something special here and it's starting to come together."