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Back on wing, Rangers' St. Louis finds scoring touch

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- Given Martin St. Louis' track record, it was likely that he would eventually start to score in bunches.

The New York Rangers right wing scored for the second straight game Wednesday and assisted on Derick Brassard's overtime goal in a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden.

St. Louis, 39, had a tough start to the season, scoring one goal through New York's first 10 games. Some of that could be attributed to the leg injury No. 1 center Derek Stepan sustained in training camp. The Stepan injury forced Rangers coach Alain Vigneault to ask St. Louis to spend some time at center.

St. Louis went the first five games of the season without a goal before he finally broke through against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 19. He then went another four games without a goal.

Stepan has not returned, but St. Louis now finds himself on the top line with Brassard and Rick Nash, and it has paid dividends for St. Louis, who has three goals in the past two games. After Henrik Lundqvist denied Gustav Nyquist on a penalty shot, St. Louis gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead 6:39 into the second period when Matt Hunwick sent him in on a breakaway, and he fired a wrist shot past Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson for his fourth goal.

"They just missed a penalty shot. To go up two instead of being tied 1-1, it's big there, that momentum swing" St. Louis said. "They really pushed and they were coming. It took us awhile to get the momentum back after they tied it up (at 2-2), but we stuck with it.

"I'm finding some opportunities to score goals and I'm trying to make the best of it when I get the opportunity. You try to score every game. I felt I was getting some looks and I felt really good physically. You just need to stick with it."

Vigneault pulled no punches when asked what has sparked St. Louis' turnaround. He believes it's directly correlated to shifting him back to right wing.

"I put him in a very challenging position by putting him out of his normal position," Vigneault said. "Because of the circumstances, sometimes you don't have a choice, but he was useful in the middle to our team. But obviously he's a better player on the wing and he's getting some really good looks and he's burying them."

Brassard, who has seven points (two goals, five assists) in the past four games, said it has taken some time for the forwards to learn each other's tendencies, but he realizes the importance of St. Louis' production to the Rangers' overall success.

"That's something we talked about … he's been feeling really well," Brassard said. "I think it was Game 12 tonight, and guys are going to start to get the execution together and get good chemistry between players. Marty's been fine the past two or three games. It's really good for our team, because he's going to be a big part of this team down the road, and we're pretty happy to see him score."

Martin St. Louis
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 10
SOG: 23 | +/-: 3
Nash has been the Rangers' most consistent forward this season and opened the scoring Wednesday with his 10th goal of the season. But with St. Louis and Brassard starting to contribute more offensively, the Rangers boast a more balanced attack.

"They're two highly skilled guys, elite guys in this league, and once guys like that find their niche and click, it's dangerous for the other teams," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "When guys are feeling like that, it's tough to defend. They're doing a good job of finding each other and kind of know where each other is going to be right now."

St. Louis' emergence couldn't come at a better time, especially with captain and top defenseman Ryan McDonagh expected to miss the next 3-4 weeks with a separated shoulder he sustained Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. McDonagh's absence requires every player on the roster to play responsibly in both ends of the ice, a challenge St. Louis and his teammates embrace. Wednesday marked the Rangers' fourth straight one-goal game.

"We're trying to play our game," said St. Louis, who had 15 points in 25 games last spring to help the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final. "I don't think we're trying to blow any teams out. That's not the way we play. We play close games, and that's what we did again tonight.

"When you have an opportunity to close a game out, you want to do that. We did that tonight."


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