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Surging Nash has four points in Rangers' win

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had three goals in 25 games last postseason, but it didn't prevent his team from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

Nash endured another drought in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he had a goal and three assists Tuesday to help the Rangers stave off elimination with a 7-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena to tie the best-of-7 series at 3-3.

The Rangers can reach the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight season with a win in Game 7 on Friday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Nash has three goals in the past three games and ranks second on the Rangers in scoring with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 18 games.

He went eight straight games without a goal earlier in the playoffs and did not have a point in the first three games of this series, but Nash silenced any critics with his performance in Game 6.

With their season on the line, their star forward stepped up. But he's not about to compare what has transpired this postseason to a year ago, when he got his first taste of hockey's grandest stage.

"I think anytime you get to the Stanley Cup Final, it's pretty enjoyable," Nash said. "Personally, it's not a big deal to me. You can be the hero one night and then have a whole bunch of people after you the next. You stay level-headed, you stay on an even ground and worry about the next game and not what happened in the last one."

Nash was part of New York's five-goal outburst in the third period. Less than three minutes after Nikita Kucherov got the Lightning back within three goals at 5-3, Nash parked himself in front of the net and nearly redirected Keith Yandle's shot past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy before poking the puck over the goal line on a third chance.

A game the Rangers led 2-1 after two periods became a 6-2 lead midway through the third.

"It was just a matter of not taking your foot off the gas, sticking with the game plan and still trying to score, not just playing defense," Nash said.

Nash's line with Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller was dominant Tuesday. Brassard had a hat trick and two assists and the three combined for 13 points.

"Since he came on our line, he's opened up a lot of ice," Nash said of Miller. "He plays hard, hard areas, hard minutes. … he doesn't back down from any checks. It's nice to see him get rewarded."

Nash and the Rangers return to Madison Square Garden, where they are 7-0 in Game 7. But Tampa Bay has responded nicely after losses in these playoffs, including goalie Ben Bishop, who was pulled when Brassard's second goal Tuesday made it 5-1 in the second period. Bishop is 6-1 with a 1.42 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage following a defeat.

After making one trip to the playoffs in his nine seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash is one victory away from a second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final. But there is still more work to be done.

"You're going to try to use it as much to your advantage, but playoffs in general have been full momentum swings," Nash said. "We've got to make sure that we can keep momentum in a positive.

"We'll enjoy a solid effort tonight and go back to work tomorrow and see what we can do to get better."


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