Rangers players celebrate after left wing Will Cuylle scored a goal...

Rangers players celebrate after left wing Will Cuylle scored a goal during the second period an NHL game against the Calgary Flames on Monday at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Bryan Woolston

Apparently, the NHL All-Star break did come at the right time for the Rangers.

Since returning from the weeklong shutdown, the Rangers have looked like a different team than the one that went into the break on a 12-12-2 run. They’ve won four straight since the restart and five straight overall. Their 2-0 win over Calgary on Monday was reminiscent of the kind of wins they were getting in the first quarter of the season when they were 18-4-1 over the first 23 games.

Back then, the Rangers found different ways to win. Sometimes they would protect a lead. Other times, they would rally from behind. They won high-scoring and low-scoring games.  

In that hot beginning, not even injuries to key players stopped them. They didn’t miss a beat when Adam Fox missed 10 games in November. One main reason was because Erik Gustafsson stepped in and produced a lot of points while Fox was out. Even third-string goalie Louis Domingue came up from Hartford to win a game for them. They’ve adjusted to playing without Filip Chytil.

All the breaks went their way, it seemed. Until it all just stopped.

But over the last five games, it seems to be back.

“There’s always these peaks and valleys inside the season,’’ coach Peter Laviolette said after Monday's win in which goalie Igor Shesterkin earned his first shutout of the season. “It could be with… the power play or the penalty kill, or scoring late in the game or whatever it might be... It also goes with wins and losses, so it was nice to put a stop to [the inconsistency].

“We started putting some wins together where we’re building something now and having a much better February [4-0] than we did January [5-7-2]. So I do think the guys are confident that they’re going to win games.’’

The biggest thing to come out of Monday’s game was the performance of Shesterkin, who hasn’t had his best season. He made 30 saves against the red-hot Flames, many of them brilliant.

“Everybody knew he was going to get back to how he plays,’’ Jacob Trouba said of Shesterkin. “Every player goes through slumps and I think it’s just more noticeable when it’s a goalie and everybody’s eyes see it more… But everybody knew he was going to be back.’’

Other things are going right for the Rangers, who are 34-16-3 and led the Metropolitan Division by six points entering Tuesday. For one, they are getting goals from their bottom two lines – something they weren’t getting much of during their struggles. Both their goals against Calgary came from bottom six forwards. Third-liner Will Cuylle scored the game's first goal in the second period and fourth-liner Jimmy Vesey sealed it with an empty-netter in the final seconds.

“It can’t be the same guys [scoring] every night,’’ said Vesey, who has three goals in the last five games. “You’ve got to have contributions from all four lines and it’s been nice that the bottom six has stepped up lately. I think it’s good for confidence. It’s good for guys to see the puck go into the net. And hopefully that’s something to build on for our team.’’

Notes & quotes: One night after he was scratched in favor of Hartford call-up Adam Edstrom, veteran RW Tyler Pitlick was placed on waivers. Pitlick had one goal and three assists in 34 games.

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