By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
scored two more goals and Martin Biron
stepped in for an ailing Henrik Lundqvist
to lead the Rangers past the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. With the win the Rangers completed a four-game season series sweep of the 'Canes, while also moving six points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 95 points.
Richards scored twice for the second consecutive game, and now has five goals in his last three contests. He had three points in the game as he and linemates Marian Gaborik (1-2-3) and Carl Hagelin (1-2-3) accounted for all four goals and nine points on the night.
Biron learned that he would start in the place of Lundqvist---sick with the flu---around 1:00 PM on Tuesday. He was extremely sharp right from the outset of the game, and finished with 27 saves in earning his 12th victory in 18 starts this season.
Along with missing Lundqvist, the Rangers also played without Ryan Callahan (sore foot) and Michael Del Zotto (sore hip) once again.
The Rangers raced to a 3-0 lead by the 13:11 mark of the second period, powered by their new top line. But the Hurricanes cashed in on a couple of scrambly plays just 32 seconds apart to pull within 3-2 before the second intermission.
Gaborik opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period, depositing a rebound of Dan Girardi'd shot off the back boards into the cage behind Cam Ward just 3:02 into the game. The goal was Gaborik's team-high 34th of the season, and extended his point streak to three consecutive games.
Richards then went to work, scoring a pair of second-period goals to give him 23 on the season. First Richards took advantage of a 'Canes miscue in their own end and converted a pass from Hagelin into a goal from right wing at 10:12. Then at 13:11 Hagelin did a great job controlling the puck behind Ward's net before passing out in front Richards who patiently skated through the slot from right to left before rifling a shot into the top of the cage.
Carolina, however, bounced back with Tim Brent's power play goal slipping through several players, including Biron, at 14:44, and Drayson Bowman's slam dunk to the side of the net at 15:16.
The Hurricanes came within inches of tying the game early in the third period, but Eric Staal's shot off a shorthanded breakaway hit the post behind Biron. Moments later the Rangers' Mats Zuccarello hit the post during the same Blueshirt power play, and then a bit later on in the third period Gaborik's blast from left wing also kissed iron behind Ward.
Hagelin scored on a wraparound with seven minutes left in the third period---his 13th goal of the season---to put the game away for the Blueshirts, who have now won two straight after losing three in a row.