WASHINGTON - Rick Nash had not played poorly in the first five games of the Rangers' second-round playoff series against the Capitals, but he also had not done what he primarily is paid to do: score goals.
He entered the third period of Game 6 on Sunday night without a single one against the Caps and with only one in the entire playoffs, a garbage-time score against the Penguins.
Then it happened: 54 seconds into the third, he outmaneuvered Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom in front of the net and beat goaltender Braden Holtby for what was anything but a cheap, late goal.
It gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, and they would need it en route to narrowly escaping with a 4-3 victory.
"It's nice to score goals," Nash said afterward. "Obviously, they've been hard to come by, and it's been really frustrating when you can't do the thing you're supposed to do, and you feel like you're letting your team down. It's tough. But we're winning games, and that's all that matters."
Nash scored 42 goals in the regular season but has had to answer many questions about his playoff scoring drought -- and not for the first time in his career.
He had been getting plenty of scoring chances and working to set up others, but now that he has broken through, the Rangers must hope he keeps it up in Game 7 Wednesday -- and beyond, if they win.
It also would help the Rangers if Nash's current linemate and fellow highly paid scorer, Martin St. Louis, awakened from a goal-less playoff slumber.
St. Louis made it 11 games without a postseason goal, and he did not muster a single shot on goal.
After the morning skate Sunday, he insisted he only was a good bounce or two away from a breakthrough.
The good news is that at 39, St. Louis has been around long enough to know these things happen -- and he said it was more important for him to assess his overall play than to assess his statistics sheet.
"Personally, if I've had chances, I've produced chances, really I feel you have to gauge your game according to that," he said. "Of course you want your chances to go in. Sometimes they just don't.
"So the only way to keep going is to keep playing. Play hard, stay positive. The easiest thing to do is to feel sorry for yourself and quit."
Derick Brassard said he would try to set up St. Louis and / or Nash on Sunday night.
"When you're a goal-scorer and you're not scoring, it just takes one sometimes and you know a lot of goals are going to come," he said. "They've been goal-scorers all of their careers, so I'm pretty sure it's going to come soon."
One out of two ain't bad.
Said St. Louis: "I'm playing with confidence. It's just not going in right now. It's one goal and sometimes the floodgates open and that's happened to me in the past. I'm just going to keep working for that bounce."