The Rangers topped the defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators, 4-2, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
"You definitely enjoy winning, and we haven't been doing that a lot," Kevin Hayes said after scoring the game-winning goal 12:46 into the second period that put the Rangers ahead by two. "Hopefully it's a springboard into a lot more."
While no game is perfect, the Rangers were satisfied with their play against a Nashville team that entered the game 4-0-1 in its last five games, especially early with two goals in the first period, with the first coming from Jesper Fast, who followed Hayes into Nashville's zone on a breakaway and buried home the loose puck after No. 13 was initially stopped.
Chris Kreider doubled the lead with his first goal of the season on the power play at 19:34 when he converted a feed from J.T. Miller.
Nashville got on the board 1:44 into the middle frame on a goal by Mattias Ekholm that was followed by Hayes' third of the season to put the Rangers back up by two. The center skated around defenseman Matt Irwin and beat Juuse Saros top-shelf to put New York back up by two.
"I got some speed there and their D was standing flat footed," Hayes said. "Not often do I beat guys wide but tonight that happened and luckily it went in."
Video: NSH@NYR: Hayes goes top shelf to beat Saros
Filip Forsberg scored late in the second, and Jimmy Vesey put the game away with an empty-net goal with 38.5 seconds remaining.
The Rangers went a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill against a Predators squad that was ranked 10th overall with the man advantage. That success was a boost for a team in search of one.
"The PK was awesome," said Miller, who has four points in his last three games. "They do a lot of good things for us. Some of the inside looks they did get, [Henrik Lundqvist] was right there and the PK guys did an awesome job getting sticks in lanes and broke up a lot of passes [Nashville] likes to thread through the seams."
Like the Rangers as a whole during this stretch, Lundqvist was turning in strong performances without the results. And like his teammates, the relief of leaving The Garden with two points on Saturday was evident.
"It was a good feeling to finally get a win here. We talked about it the last couple of games, we were one play away from getting a win," said Lundqvist, who stopped 23 of 25 shots. "You can do so many good things to try to get confidence and try to get a good feeling in here, but it in the end it comes down to winning games. I think I'd rather play bad and win than play great and lose."
Video: NSH@NYR: Lundqvist flashes his pad to rob Fiala
Coach Alain Vigneault had been stressing the positives he'd seen from his team during its five-game winless streak that now can be viewed as a three-game unbeaten streak (1-0-2) in regulation. While he declined to characterize his feelings as relief, he was pleased the effort paid off with a victory.
"I mean obviously we felt we deserved a better outcome, especially in the last three games. The process was there, the work was there," he said. "Today we played a real strong first period, got a lead, then maybe backed off a little more than we should have. Hank came up with some saves. We'll take the two points and move on to the next game."