After the way they played in an ugly loss to the Ottawa Senators at the Garden on Monday, the Rangers were badly in need of a bounce-back performance Wednesday against the lowly Detroit Red Wings.
And with No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad missing his fourth straight game — still unable to play because of an upper-body injury the Rangers have said for 11 days was a day-to-day issue — the Rangers did get that bounce-back they were looking for, taking care of business with a 5-1 victory in the front end of a back-to-back that continues Thursday in Carolina against the Hurricanes.
Two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal powered the Rangers, who improved to 6-6-1. Detroit, which entered the game tied with the Senators for the fewest points in the league (nine), fell to 4-12-1.
“It was really important,’’ forward Artemi Panarin said when asked how important it was for the Rangers to bounce back after the Ottawa loss. “It was a second test for us.’’
Panarin scored his seventh goal of the season, into an empty net with 2:37 left, to provide the final margin. The Red Wings trailed 4-1 when they pulled goaltender Jimmy Howard for the extra skater with more than five-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
Henrik Lundqvist started in net for the Rangers for the first time since Oct. 27, when he played the first two periods against the Boston Bruins. He entered Wednesday with a 2-3 record, .906 save percentage, and a 3.58 goals-against average.
Against the Red Wings, Lundqvist was sharp — he made 35 saves — and stopped all 16 shots he faced in the third period.
Coach David Quinn, who had said at the morning skate that there was “a chance’’ Lundqvist could play again Thursday, wouldn’t tip his hand on whether Lundqvist would play Thursday. He said would talk about it with goalie coach Benoit Allaire.
Lundqvist, asked after the game if he would be up to the challenge of playing again Thursday, said, “If he gives me an opportunity, I’ll play.’’
Neither team generated much in the first period, which featured no goals, no penalties and not much action at all. But the Rangers got three goals in a span of four minutes, 24 seconds early in the second period to take command.
Two of the goals came on the power play, on which the Rangers were 2-for-3. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, dropped to the second power-play unit after Adam Fox took his place with the first group, converted a rebound of a shot by Brendan Lemieux for his fifth goal, at 4:25, one second before a penalty to Detroit’s Adam Erne expired, to open the scoring.
Chris Kreider snapped in his third goal of the season to make it 2-0 at 6:04 of the period, and the Rangers made it 3-0 with their second power-play goal of the game, this one credited to Ryan Strome at 8:49, after Fox’s shot bounced in off him and got behind Howard. The goal was Strome’s fifth of the season.
Detroit got one back less than a minute later, when former Islander Valtteri Filppula scored his second goal of the season at 8:41, finishing a two-on-none pass from Andreas Athanasiou, after Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba gambled unsuccessfully when he tried to strip the puck from Athanasiou in the neutral zone. That pulled Detroit to within 3-1 and it finished the second period with a flurry.
Micheal Haley’s tripping penalty early in the third period put Detroit on the power play, but Greg McKegg, returning to the lineup after sitting out the previous three games, scored a shorthanded goal, his first goal as a Ranger, to make it 4-1 at 8:44 of the third period.