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Nash scores twice to help Rangers top Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Rick Nash immediately knew where the puck was. He pointed to teammate Martin St. Louis, and in a matter of seconds, the New York Rangers secured a victory to start the 2014-15 season.

Nash has made a habit of punishing the St. Louis Blues during his career. He did it again Thursday at Scottrade Center.

Nash scored two goals, including the game-winner with 1:50 left in the third period, to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory against the Blues in the season opener for each team. He also had an assist.

Nash scored the game-winner from the slot off a feed from St. Louis after Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's clearing attempt took a funny carom off the left boards. The puck hit a stanchion and fell into the high slot. Some players had no idea where the puck was until it fell at the skates of St. Louis; he quickly flipped the puck to Nash, who beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott top shelf stick side.

"I saw it right away," Nash said. "[St. Louis] had no idea, and I yelled at him and was trying to point to him were it was. And he said he heard me and just turned around because he had no idea.

"I saw it hit the glass seam and fire back. I was yelling at Marty that it stayed in the zone. It was unbelievable, it was a great play by him."

Chris Kreider had a goal and an assist for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 shots to beat St. Louis for the first time in his career. Lundqvist, who has played his whole career with the Rangers, now has at least one win against each of the 29 other NHL teams.

"It was a lot of fun to be out there and compete. It was a good game, great start for us," Lundqvist said. "We played a really strong game. The way we responded as a team after each goal was good. You can't expect it to be easy to come into this building to play. Third period was really a challenge for us, but we stepped up big time."

The win was costly for the Rangers, who will be without defenseman Dan Boyle for 4-6 weeks after he sustained a broken hand in the third period, according to coach Alain Vigneault.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called it an unfortunate way to lose a game. The Blues felt like they got better as the game progressed after a tough start.

"Tough way to lose a game when something like that happens," Hitchcock said. "... For something like that, you feel bad for the players because if the puck goes off the glass, we're looking at a 3-on-1. Their defenseman is out of position, three forwards are trapped. Puck goes off the stanchion and it's a 2-on-1 right back in our net."

Jaden Schwartz had a goal and an assist for the Blues. Elliott stopped 22 shots.

Paul Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract with St. Louis this summer, scored his first goal with the Blues midway through the third period. The goal originally was credited to Vladimir Tarasenko, but it was changed to Stastny after the game.

Stastny missed the end of the second period after Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi stuck his left leg out and brought down the Blues center with a shot to the left quad with 4:22 remaining. He came back for the start of the third period.

"It's a little tender right now," Stastny said. "... I went around [Girardi]. I think he was beat. He's an honest player; just a natural reaction. He tried to get a piece of me for me not to beat him."

Nash, who has 23 goals and 43 points in 51 career games against the Blues, snapped a shot from the high slot past Elliott 4:01 into the game for a 1-0 Rangers lead.

Kreider stripped Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from behind in the St. Louis zone and was able to set up Nash for a high-percentage shot. The Rangers had the better of the play in the first period, outshooting the Blues 16-8.

"They're a team that comes at you hard," Vigneault said. "Their defensemen are really involved in their forechecking, but if you put pressure on them in the right areas, you can create turnovers and that’s what we did tonight."

The Blues got back at it in the third and were finally able to solve Lundqvist.

Schwartz tied the game 1-1 when he charged the net after David Backes threw a puck toward the goal. Schwartz scooted past Rangers defenseman John Moore and popped a backhander over Lundqvist's glove at 1:32 after the Rangers goalie left a big rebound and tried to poke it away from the crease.

The Blues started shooting more pucks after passing on some opportunities earlier in the game.

"It's never been our recipe for success to try and make ESPN's Top 10 by any means," Backes said. "We've got to shoot pucks, find some ugly ones and we'll have success. That's what we did when we finally did score. Shot, rebound, and [Schwartz] puts one in."

Kreider gave the lead back to New York at 6:30 when Nash sprung him for a breakaway and he beat Elliott to the short side.

Stastny got the Blues even at 2-2 after Schwartz gained control of the puck in the neutral zone and moved it to Stastny, who fed Tarasenko for a wrist shot. Stastny deflected the puck short side past Lundqvist at 10:42.

The Blues felt like they would gain the edge but could never get the lead.

"We started simplifying the second half of the game," Stastny said. "I think we were trying to make too many passes. It was kind of just blowing up on us. We played the way we wanted as the game went on. It was just a bad bounce there off of the glass. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, You've just got to deal with it."

The Rangers were able to persevere and move on to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before playing their home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

"It’s a huge start," Nash said. "The schedule came out; can't think of a tougher place to start than on the road in St. Louis. We had this one circled for a long time. We knew it was going to be a true test coming out of the gate.

"I didn’t know I had success against them. It seems like it's one of the toughest places to come play. Being in Columbus so long, it was a tough building to come into and have success. Too bad we don’t play them more. I think the reason is just playing them all the time when I was in their conference."

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