VANCOUVER -- Martin St. Louis admitted the pressure was mounting after going 14 games without scoring for his new team.
Making his first goal for the New York Rangers an important one added to the sense of relief for the veteran forward.
St. Louis scored his first goal since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on a shorthanded 2-on-1 pass from Rick Nash midway through the third period, and the Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 at Rogers Arena on Tuesday night.
"It's always nice to score goals, especially in a winning way," St. Louis said. "It's a big momentum for our team to get one shorthanded. [I'm] excited to get the first one. First one I guess is the hardest."
Waiting so long for it to come was even harder.
"I love to score goals, everyone loves to score goals, and 15 games, plus the two prior to coming here, that's as long a drought as I have had in a while," St. Louis said. "There is a lot of things playing against you with a new team and new environment, but you try to stay the course, play the right way and find that fine line of anticipating and not cheating. I feel I am getting more comfortable finding that line."
So are the Rangers' penalty-killers. St. Louis' goal was the Rangers' third shorthanded in two games, and their seventh in the past 15, three more than they have managed to score on the power play in the same span. New York is in a three-way tie for second in the NHL with 10 shorthanded goals.
"A lot of shorties," said Nash, who also scored shorthanded in a 5-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. "We're taking our chances when they are there, not getting out of position to get them, and guys are finishing."
It was a perfect description of the goal by St. Louis.
With the Canucks pressing for the tie on a second straight power play, defenseman Yannick Weber's diving attempt to keep a puck in at the blue line came up short. Nash broke into the Vancouver end before passing across to St. Louis atop the right circle for a quick shot over Eddie Lack's glove.
"Great shot," Nash said. "Usually they are not the prettiest ones when you are struggling, but that was a nice one."
Daniel Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot scored in the first period for the Rangers, who have won seven of the past eight games to increase their lead for second place in the Metropolitan Division to three points over the Philadelphia Flyers. New York also set a franchise record with its 25th road win.
With five games left, the Rangers have an eight-point lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final Eastern Conference berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It was a good road game and special teams came up really strong," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 34 saves and enjoyed seeing the penalty kill chip in at the other end again. "We're using a lot of skill players on the penalty kill right now and they are going to go for it when they can and they have scored some big goals for us lately. We're aggressive, we're on pucks and we're on our toes all the time and that's why we create chances."
It wasn't all positive for the Rangers, who watched top defenseman Ryan McDonagh go straight to the dressing room appearing to favor his left shoulder with 43.8 seconds left after a high hit from Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows, who was assessed a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.
Coach Alain Vigneault did not have an update after the game.
"Don't know. Didn't check and we'll know [Wednesday]," he said.
Ryan Kesler scored and Lack made 28 saves in his 17th straight start for the Canucks, who fell six points behind the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes in the race for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver has five games left.
"It's always difficult, you battle all year to play in the playoffs and work to get a chance to play in the playoffs," Burrows said. "That's what it's all about. When you're on the outside looking in, you've got to keep playing and be a pro and work for each other, your teammates."
It was the second regular-season game between the teams since they swapped coaches last summer. The Vigneault-led Rangers won each game against former coach John Tortorella and the Canucks, but neither coach put any extra stock in that storyline.
"Two points, battling to get in, that's all this is," Vigneault said.
Carcillo, who was dropped from the first to the fourth line, opened the scoring after Lack failed to control a dump in off the end boards 4:59 into the first period. The puck bounced right through the crease, setting off a scramble that ended with Brian Boyle knocking the puck out from under Lack's glove to a wide-open Carcillo on other side.
Lundqvist, who made a couple of good saves on Kesler in the first three minutes, kept the Rangers ahead by staying patient to get his left arm on Chris Higgins partial breakaway shot midway through the period, and Pouliot made it 2-0 on a power play with 5:17 left.
Lack made a good blocker save on Mats Zuccarello's shot from alone in the slot, and followed the rebound to his right. But the puck went straight to Derick Brassard, who quickly passed it back across the crease to an open Pouliot for a one-timer into an empty net.
Kesler finally beat Lundqvist 6:21 into the second period. After winning an offensive zone, Kesler fought off a check from Dominic Moore and one-timed a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sedin between the legs of Lundqvist as he slid left to right across his crease.
Each goaltender survived scrambles late in the second period, with Lack robbing Pouliot twice in front and Lundqvist getting his left pad on a tough deflection, then diving to poke away the rebound.
"Lundqvist played really well," Tortorella said. "We had some quality chances on him. I know Eddie wants the first one back, but he made some great saves in the middle part of that game right on through."
|Daniel Carcillo (4) ASST: Derek Dorsett (4), Brian Boyle (12)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Benoit Pouliot (13) ASST: Derick Brassard (25), Mats Zuccarello (37)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Kesler (24) ASST: Daniel Sedin (29)|
2 - 1 NYR
|SHG - Martin St. Louis (30) ASST: Rick Nash (13)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Tom Sestito Tripping against Martin St. Louis|
|Brad Richardson Hi-sticking against Derick Brassard|
|Carl Hagelin Tripping against Alexandre Burrows|
|Brian Boyle Interference against Ryan Kesler|
|Alexandre Burrows Elbowing (maj) against Ryan McDonagh|
|Alexandre Burrows Game misconduct against Ryan McDonagh|