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St. Louis sets up winning goal for Rangers

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- With the game tied in the final minutes, the New York Rangers learned exactly what Martin St. Louis brings to the team.

The wing patiently worked the puck through his teammates during a 1:29 stretch of a two-man advantage. Then, in the final seconds of the 5-on-3, St. Louis slipped a pass across the crease to Derek Stepan for the go-ahead goal in a 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"With a minute-and-a-half, you want to take what they give you," St. Louis said. "You don't want to rush anything. It's a tie game. It's not like you need two goals; you need one. We had passes that were just a little off. We didn't panic. We just brought it back, set it up, took what they gave us, and it was a great shot by Stepan."

St. Louis was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in a trade for Ryan Callahan. Rangers linemate Brad Richards, who played with St. Louis in Tampa Bay, said his first point with New York is just scratching the surface.

"That's what he's here for. You need a play and he makes that play," said Richards, who also assisted on Stepan's goal. "That 5-on-3, he loves being down there and making those plays. He's figuring us out and different players' tendencies. We hope it's 100 percent now, but let's be realistic, we'll probably get a better Marty as we go."

It capped a wild finish to a game the Hurricanes led 1-0 in the third period on Jordan Staal's first-period goal.

New York made it 1-1 on Ryan McDonagh's shorthanded goal at 7:25. Rick Nash skated the puck up the left wing before leaving a drop pass for McDonagh, who beat Anton Khudobin between the pads for his 11th of the season. Khudobin was strong throughout the game, stopping 40 shots.

Less than five minutes later, Jeff Skinner gave Carolina a 2-1 lead on his first penalty-shot goal. He earned the chance when he was tied up by Anton Stralman on a breakaway. Skinner beat Henrik Lundqvist with a wrist shot over the glove at 12:07.

New York tied the game 2-2 when Nash's centering pass deflected into the net at 13:24 for his 20th goal of the season.

"In between periods in here, we emphasized to stay with it. I think that was the difference tonight," Nash said. "Especially on a night like tonight, you want to start cheating and taking chances. If you trust the process and believe in it, it's going to work, and it showed tonight."

The Rangers ended up with the late 5-on-3 after an unusual set of penalties. Carolina defensemen Ron Hainsey and Brett Bellemore each took a delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass. New York worked the puck around the offensive zone but managed two shots in the first 1:12 of the advantage before scoring.

"Great job for us to get back in the game and stay patient," Richards said. "We dictated the play a lot. You get a 5-on-3 at the end of the game with a minute-and-a-half, you've got to make it count."

New York's Carl Hagelin scored into the empty net with 41 seconds left to complete New York's four-goal third period.

The loss was costly for Carolina (27-27-9), which has lost eight of 11 and sits in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes have lost 10 straight to the Rangers.

"Very frustrating," coach Kirk Muller said. "That was a big game. I thought we did everything we were supposed to do. Having the lead that late, you have to be able to hold that off and win the hockey game, and we didn't do it."

Carolina's 29th-ranked power play squandered a 43-second 5-on-3 in the second period and 7:17 of power-play time overall.

"You have to execute," Muller said. "We work on stuff, and you have to run the plays. If we start to get individual and want to make your own plays, then it doesn't work."

Lundqvist kept the Rangers close and Stepan deserved credit for the game-winner, but it was St. Louis' night, if only because the Rangers got their first real glimpse of what their new 38-year-old forward can do when the game is on the line.

Wearing a Rangers hoodie and looking a little tired afterward, St. Louis spoke like a man who knew how to fit in on a new team, despite playing his past 972 games for another franchise.

"I've tried to have conversations with the guys so I can understand them better," he said. "I have to understand how they see the game because everyone sees the game differently. You've got to play within your linemates' and teammates' strengths and understand what they are good at and what they look for."

Lundqvist, who made 22 saves, is happy to root for St. Louis to create goals rather than trying to stop him.

"He's probably one of the best in the League to do it," Lundqvist said. "That's one of the reasons it's exciting to have a player like that who can be the difference in a crucial time."

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