The combination of Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik is off to a flying start.
The New York Rangers signed Richards as a free agent this summer in an effort to find a playmaker for Gaborik, who went from 42 goals in 2009-10 to 22 last season. Their first night together was an unqualified success, with both scoring a goal and adding an assist as the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Richards tied the game 4:22 into the first period and set up Gaborik for a power-play goal early in the second period to give New York a 3-1 lead. Brandon Bell's goal with 3:04 left in regulation snapped a 3-3 tie.
But the chemistry between Richards and Gaborik was easily the best news of the night for the Rangers.
"He's one of the best players in the League," Gaborik said. "You can see he's good at making plays and handling the puck and, also, defensively, he knows where to go. We spent some time in their zone. We still need to work on some things, but I think it was pretty good for the first game."
Coach John Tortorella, who coached Richards in Tampa Bay when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, was also pleased with his new top line -- Wojtek Wolski spent most of the night riding shotgun.
"He made some good plays with the puck," Tortorella said of Richards. "His passing ability, that's a big part of his game so I thought that line created a lot of offense. We'll try some other people along the way."
The best news for the Devils was the play of rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who rebounded after Richards' goal went into the net off his skate. Larsson, the No. 4 choice in the Entry Draft three months ago, had a pair of assists and looked right at home.
"It didn't seem to rattle him," coach Peter DeBoer said of Richards' goal. "He's pretty calm and poised. I think that's one of his special qualities. Something like that happens to a young defenseman, you never know how they're going to react, but I think he did some really good things tonight, especially on the power play."