NEW YORK -- If the Rangers are going to get offense from beyond the first line this season, this League-best six-game winning streak they're currently riding might become a regular occurrence.
The red-hot trio of Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, who had 19 points over the past three games, were held off the scoresheet Friday night, but the Rangers still found a way to use a four-goal outburst during the third period to break open a tie game and wash away the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.
Brandon Dubinsky, who entered the game without a goal this season, finally slammed one into the back of the net. Sean Avery, who was deemed not good enough to be on the roster before the season, played his best game since being recalled last week and also scored.
Dan Girardi's third goal of the season early in the third period was the winner. Ryan Callahan got his seventh while Brad Richards capitalized on a gaffe by Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward to score his fifth late in the third period.
"We felt like we had another level to give, and I think you saw it there in the third," Dubinsky said. "Every line contributed. Everyone started getting their feet moving on forechecking. As a result, we put them on their heels and ended up scoring some goals and coming away with a huge win."
As for Dubinsky's goal -- his first in 15 games -- if his look of relief after scoring into a gaping net after Ward left a juicy rebound didn't say it all, his words confirmed the way he felt.
"It's certainly a weight off your shoulders," Dubinsky said. "Those are the ones you need. You can't ask for a better gift than a wide-open net with the puck on your stick, especially when you're in dire need of a goal."
The game was tight and competitive through two periods, with Avery getting the Rangers on the board in the first and Alexei Ponikarovsky answering for the Hurricanes late in the second period. What looked destined to be a one-goal game one way or the other quickly dissolved into a blowout within three minutes of the third period.
Girardi's power-play goal at 10:47 put the Rangers ahead 2-1. The goal was set up beautifully by Richards, who held the puck long enough to get Ward to commit, then slipped it across to Girardi in the lower right circle. Ward had no chance to get across as Girardi roofed the shot quickly and accurately.
Before the sellout crowd of 18,200 had a chance to sit down, Dubinsky got his goal 9 seconds later to make it 3-1. Callahan then backhanded a loose puck home to make it 4-1 at 13:47, leaving no doubt that the Rangers would improve to 9-3-3, their best start since going 9-5-1 to open the 2009-10 season.
"It's 3-1, and we probably needed a timeout," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm very disappointed with our effort. That was the turning point for sure."
The goal that started the onslaught came during an abbreviated power play. The Hurricanes had a man advantage, but Eric Staal, who was booed every time he touched the puck for his role in brother Marc Staal's concussion, took a high-sticking penalty. Girardi, who took the stick in the face, made the Hurricanes pay.
"I feel a little bit comfortable," said Girardi about his role on the second power-play unit. "But we have that big group out there, that No. 1 group. I feel like with every team, there's a lot of pressure on that first unit to move the puck around and get the goals. It's pretty easy to go out there and play 30 seconds of a power play. You just want to get shots on net and keep things simple. The second unit's just more simple."
Girardi, an undrafted free agent, has become one of the NHL's most under-the-radar players.
"It's not just this year he's underrated; this guy has been a really good player," said Rangers coach John Tortorella, who used some colorful words to express his displeasure about Girardi being left off the All-Star ballot. "But if you don't have the pedigree in this League, they don't look at you."
The offensive heroics wouldn't have been possible without Henrik Lundqvist, who kept the Rangers in the game while they tried to solve Ward during the first 50 minutes. Lundqvist made 34 saves -- 25 during the first two periods -- while Ward was making the far more difficult stops and looking almost impenetrable.
"I told him right after the game when we were celebrating, 'Great job keeping us there,' " Dubinsky said of Lundqvist. "He gave us a chance to have a period like that and make a difference. Both of our goalies have been rocks for us and have won games for us here and there. He kept us in it tonight and gave us an opportunity to break out a little bit and put some pucks in the net."
After playing a total of 15:35 in three games since coming back from the AHL, Avery was on the ice for 10:06 against the Hurricanes. He scored a goal during a spirited first period, drew two penalties during the second period and eventually saw time on a line with Richards after starting the game on the fourth line.
"I think it was the exact type of game I need to play and try to get it done every night," Avery said. "I was trying to kind of slow everything down. Certainly that's a reason I'm trying to do that because it gives me better control and I make better decisions."
The Hurricanes (5-8-3) have lost four straight and 8 of 10.
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