Nash scores twice to reach 20; Rangers top Flames
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Rick Nash is enjoying the best scoring stretch of his career, and the New York Rangers are reaping the benefits.
Nash scored two goals to reach 20 for the season in the Rangers' 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night that completed a three-game Western sweep and extended their winning streak to four.
Nash has a career-best 11-game point streak, recording eight goals and six assists during the spurt. He tied Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the longest run in the NHL this season.
The Rangers are 8-3 during Nash's scoring streak.
''We need him to play the way he is,'' Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ''We're no different than any other team in the league. You need your top players to be your top performers, and that's what Rick is doing for us right now.''
Twenty goals in 29 games is a torrid start for Nash, who had just 26 goals in 65 games last season.
''Rick Nash is an elite hockey player,'' said linemate Derek Stepan, who had a goal and assist. ''He was playing the same way last year. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to find the back of the net (as much), but this year he's been our best player.''
Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin also scored for New York, which will finish its road swing at Carolina on Saturday.
Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross - with just 1:15 left - scored for Calgary. After a terrific start to the season, the Flames have lost six straight in regulation for the first time since Jan. 13-25, 2010.
''It's so easy when you're winning to go out there and make things happen when things are bouncing your way,'' Flames center Matt Stajan said. ''The real test is when nothing's going your way and you're in a funk like we are. This is where we have to step up.''
Henrik Lundqvist stopped two short-handed breakaways by Calgary: Lance Bouma on a 4-on-2 rush, and Josh Jooris on a 2-on-1 break. Lundqvist finished with 29 saves.
Nash opened the scoring 11:22 in when he broke in alone and beat Karri Ramo on a backhand-to-forehand move.
With the Rangers killing a penalty, Nash made it 3-0 at 3:06 of the second when he was set up by Stepan on a 2-on-1 break. His three short-handed goals are one shy of NHL-leader Tyler Toffoli of Los Angeles.
''The biggest thing is Stepan is making great plays, and I'm getting lucky with pucks going around the boards,'' Nash said. ''It's one of those things you don't want to think about too much when they're going right.''
A key sequence came in the final minute of the first period.
Mats Zucarello raced the puck up ice and fired a long shot that Ramo handled easily. Ramo expected Kris Russell to clear the puck away, but he shoved it back toward Ramo.
Before Ramo could cover it, Kreider stuck in his stick and knocked the puck into the net to make it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 19:52.
''Karri has to freeze it,'' Flames coach Bob Hartley said. ''He had the puck in front of him, and the referee made the right call. That puck was loose, so they came in and they whacked it in.''
The frustrated Ramo gestured with his trapper in the direction of Russell.
''At that time, it's probably one of our best penalty kills of the season,'' Hartley said. ''We generated three great scoring chances, they didn't get a sniff. They get that gift and that hurt us because right now, we're fragile.''
Down 3-0, the Flames nearly got on the board when Markus Granlund ripped a puck off the crossbar that fooled the goal judge.
Stepan then made it 4-0 at 11:15 on a wrap-around. That ended the night for Ramo, who was pulled by coach Bob Hartley after allowing four goals on 13 shots.
In his previous start, Ramo gave up four goals on 19 shots in Buffalo.
Hudler scored the Flames first goal at 11:56 of the second period, deflecting in Mark Giordano's point shot.
The Flames have scored only 10 times during their skid. However, they have held the edge in shots in five of the six games, including Tuesday.
Lundqvist, who improved to 13-7-3, has given up a total of two goals in his last three starts.
NOTES: Rangers C Derick Brassard (mumps) missed his second straight game. D John Moore was also scratched. D Matt Hunwick was back in the lineup after sitting out three games. ... LW Brandon Bollig, who has sat out four of six games, and recent call-up D Corey Potter didn't play for the Flames. ... Dating to Nov. 14, 2010, the Rangers are 96-1-1 in their last 98 regular-season games when they score at least four goals.