DALLAS - Henrik Lundqvist looked like his old self Thursday night.
Lundqvist made 41 saves, 23 of them in the first period, to lead the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. Chris Kreider and John Moore scored 37 seconds apart early in the third period to break open a 1-1 game as the Rangers started their five-game trip with a victory.
"Last couple of games, we lost. We didn't get the points. Now it's time to step up. We really needed this one. It was just so important to get points here," said Lundqvist, who has rebounded from his early-season struggles to lower his goals-against average to 2.36 and improve his save percentage to .921. "I think we earned this one after two, three really strong games at home without points."
Kreider broke a 1-1 tie when he beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a wrister from the high slot that deflected off the stick of Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley and into the net 1:18 into the final period. Moore fired a wrister from inside the right circle that hit Lehtonen's left shoulder and went in at 1:55.
"Sometimes you need a little bit of puck luck. We got some puck luck there," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of Kreider's goal. "Johnny Moore's goal was a great goal. We hadn't scored 5-on-5 in a while. Hopefully that's the start of something real positive for us."
Dallas made it a one-goal game when rookie Alex Chiasson beat Lundqvist to the glove side with a wrister from the high slot at 8:27 for his first goal in 11 games at 8:27, but the Stars were unable to get another puck past Lundqvist.
"There's a lot of goalies around the League, that's what they do for their teams," center Brad Richards said of Lundqvist keeping the Rangers in the game. "He probably does that more than anybody. Some nights when our legs aren't going in the first and he can stand tall like that, it's a huge help. We just could tell early it was going to be tough to score on him tonight and that gives us so much confidence."
Lehtonen kept the Stars within a goal when he denied Rick Nash on a penalty shot 12 seconds after Chiasson's goal. It was the first time in franchise history the Rangers have had penalty shots in back-to-back games; Kreider was stopped by Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
"I was hoping he thought I was going to do the same move that I scored on and then bring it right back and tuck it in and he played it well," Nash said.
Lundqvist preserved the win in the final minutes when he robbed Jamie Benn from the slot after the Dallas captain sifted his way through the defense and wound up alone in the slot.
"The biggest save of the night was Lundqvist's on Benn's play," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
The Stars outshot the Rangers 23-6 in the first period but skated off the ice trailing 1-0.
"I tried to be square to the puck and battle," said Lundqvist, whose 23 saves were the most he's ever made in a single period, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Nash scored his first of the season at 5:51 on a power-play breakaway started by Lundqvist, who made a quick pass to Ryan Callahan at the Dallas blue line that caught the Stars on a line change. Callahan fed a streaking Nash, who faked a shot to Lehtonen's right, moved to the goaltender's left and slid the puck inside the post.
Dallas got even at 8:46 of the second period with its first power-play goal at home in 27 chances this season. Stephane Robidas' shot struck the right hand of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and glanced off the left skate of defense partner Ryan McDonagh before landing in the back of the net.
The Rangers looked to have regained the lead at 13:27 when Derick Brassard knocked in a loose puck. However, a video review showed Brassard had batted the puck into the net with his left glove, and the goal was waved off.
Heading into the game, Dallas had won three straight after sweeping a trip through Western Canada. But Robidas knows this loss came down to a simple yet disappointing fact.
"They just took over the game right from the get go," Robidas said. "They had good pressure and they were ready to come back at us and we didn't match their work ethic on those plays."
New York continues its trip Saturday against the Nashville Predators while Dallas visits the St. Louis Blues for the first time this season.
"It's definitely not going to be an easy trip. [We're] very happy that we started this way," Vigneault said. "We've got the fathers coming in and meeting us in Nashville for Nashville and Tampa game, so I think everybody's looking forward to it. And we're going to get ready for Nashville. They won a big game tonight and we'll be ready."
In scoring three goals, the Rangers equaled their combined offensive output from their past three games.
"It's important to get early offense when you're struggling, especially on special teams," Nash said. "When you're struggling at scoring, you've got to look to your special teams for a boost and tonight we got it."