NEW YORK - Scott Gomez and Lauri Korpikoski scored first-period goals, and Steve Valiquette made 33 saves as the New York Rangers returned from the all-star break with a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Brandon Dubinsky pushed the Rangers' lead to 3-1 with 7:50 left, but Tuomo Ruutu answered 25 seconds later to tighten it up again. Valiquette, the backup to all-star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, earned his fifth win of the season. He started for the third time in 10 games and helped the Rangers improved their current run to 5-1-1.
Lundqvist, the Rangers' lone all-star, is expected to play Wednesday night at Pittsburgh.
Ryan Bayda also scored for Carolina, and Cam Ward was solid after a shaky start. He stopped 28 shots in his 14th straight start. The Hurricanes, who entered the night eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race, went 2-2 on a road trip that began before the break.
The Rangers threatened to run away with it early when Korpikoski and Gomez connected less than six minutes apart in the first period.
After Carolina all-star Eric Staal turned over the puck in the Rangers end, Markus Naslund and Gomez raced the other way on a 2-on-1. Naslund fed a pass to Gomez, who had his shot blocked. Korpikoski trailed the play, got to the rebound in the slot, and fired in his third of the season at 4:21.
Naslund earned his second assist of the night when he found Gomez in the centre of the right circle for a one-timer that produced Gomez's 10th goal at 10:03.
Carolina earned the only power play of the period and outshot the Rangers 15-14 in the fast-paced frame.
The Hurricanes got on the board with 6:56 remaining in the first when captain Rod Brind'Amour forced Rangers defenceman Marc Staal - Eric's brother - into a turnover in the right corner. Brind'Amour got the puck to Ruutu, who sent it to Bayda for a drive that squeezed past Valiquette. Bayda's fourth of the season snapped his 36-game goal-less drought.
Carolina had the better of the play from then through the second period, when the teams both had 10 shots. The Hurricanes, who were twice denied by shots off the post, also couldn't take advantage of a pair of penalties against defenceman Paul Mara.
Notes: The Rangers placed LW Dan Fritsche on waivers. ... Naslund has multiple points in consecutive games after going 15 without doing it. Like Gomez, Naslund had a goal and assist in the Rangers' 4-2 win over Anaheim last Tuesday. ... Bayda scored his previous goal on Nov. 4 at Toronto. ... Marc Staal will face his brother Jordan on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, the first time he has played consecutive games against siblings. Eric went up against Jordan in the Hurricanes' last game before the break. ... The Rangers are 8-0 when Dubinsky scores a goal. ... Brind'Amour assisted on both Hurricanes goals.