NASHVILLE — The goals started coming in the third period for the Rangers on Thursday and they didn’t stop. Six of them in all, breaking open a tied game entering and turning it into a stunning 8-2 win over the same Detroit Red Wings that had come from behind to beat them in overtime four days earlier.
There was an overwhelming feeling of relief in the Rangers’ locker room at Little Caesars Arena, and the question for the Blueshirts was, can a period like that be the thing they’ve been looking for to lift them out of the mediocrity they’ve been wallowing in and back into the Eastern Conference’s elite?
“I think it's a good sign for us,’’ said Jimmy Vesey, who scored the last of the six goals, a shorthanded effort at 16:31. “I know our record is what it is [7-5-3, 17 points], but, you know, when we play to our capabilities, we can play with anyone, and we can dominate teams at times. So we're hoping that this kind of snowballs for us and we get on a roll here.’’
Coach Gerard Gallant needs to see it happen more than just one time.
“It's definitely going to help,’’ Gallant said. “But it's got to carry over to the next game, you know what I mean? We did some good things. We can show some great [video] clips, the guys saw it on the bench, we put people at the net. People went to the net and got some opportunities. Now, like I said, it's one period, and we got six goals. But you’ve got to keep doing that consistently.’’
He was talking about the hunger the Rangers showed in attacking the net and shooting the puck. They flung 33 shots at Detroit goaltender Ville Husso, including outshooting the Red Wings in the third period, 17-9. And three of the six goals they scored in the third were from around the net front area, by Barclay Goodrow, Mika Zibanejad and Julien Gauthier.
They also were able to get goals from people other than the usual suspects. Zibanejad did score two goals in the game, and Chris Kreider and Adam Fox also scored, with Kreider’s power-play goal tying the score at 2-2 and Fox’s goal giving them a 3-2 lead. But Goodrow, Gauthier, Vesey and Libor Hajek all scored in that third period. Those four had four goals between them before Thursday.
“It's all about ‘team,’’’ Gallant said. “We always talk about 23 guys on your roster, it's really important for you. And it's great when those guys chip in because they worked hard. They had a real good solid game tonight [and] it makes a coach feel good when you see guys scoring goals — different guys that don't score every night."
The team had the day off Friday in Nashville before finishing the road trip Saturday night with a game against the Predators. That will be the front end of a back-to-back, as they return home Sunday to play the Arizona Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.