Stepan scores 2 in Rangers' 6-2 win over Stars
NEW YORK (AP) Alain Vigneault was pleased with the Rangers' execution. He was equally satisfied with the game's outcome.
Now the task for his team will be to do it again.
''Our process has been getting better,'' Vigneault said after Derek Stepan scored two goals and Rick Nash had three assists to lead the Rangers to a 6-2 win over the West-leading Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
''We are playing better hockey right now,'' he said. ''Our execution and our battle level are better.''
Jayson Megna had a goal and an assist, Kevin Klein had two assists and Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard and Viktor Stalberg added goals for the Rangers, who improved to 22-14-4.
''Hopefully we are moving in the right direction,'' said Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 21 shots.
Dallas, which fell to 28-10-4, were swept in their three-game trip to the New York area. The Stars were outscored by a combined 15-9 margin in its losses to the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and the Rangers.
John Klingberg and Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars
''Tough road trip,'' said Jamie Benn. ''Stupid hockey and it's not good enough.''
For a team that had lost 13 of 18, New York had a strong performance in the first period and led 2-1 at the intermission. Stepan and Yandle sandwiched goals around Klingberg's sixth of the year.
Stepan opened the scoring 1:56 into the game by wristing a Nash rebound past Antti Niemi, and Klingberg evened the game 1-all with a soft off-wing shot that beat Lundqvist at 13:50.
The deadlock lasted all of 18 seconds.
Yandle's second of the season - and his first since New York's 4-1 win over Arizona on Oct. 22 - gave the Rangers the lead. Yandle intercepted Patrick Eaves' clearing attempt, and fired a shot a screened Niemi could not stop.
''When you are able to answer back like that after a bad goal, it's big for the team,'' Lundqvist said. ''We were back on track right away.''
Defensively, the Rangers were noticeably better than they had been in weeks. Against the NHL's best offensive team, New York did not allow a shot until 8:19 was left in the period. Dallas only had six shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
''We did a good job,'' Lundqvist said. ''We are building. We are starting to play the Rangers hockey we need to play to have success.''
New York finished the game having outshot Dallas, 29-23. The Rangers also out-attempted the Stars, 57-53.
''We really and totally embarrassed ourselves,'' Ruff said.
Brassard increased New York's lead to 3-1 with 2:37 left in the period with an off-wing shot that trickled through Niemi and appeared to be tucked into the Dallas net by Johnny Oduya.
Ruff absolved Niemi of any blame for the loss.
''He made three or four big saves,'' Ruff said of Niemi, who made 23 saves. ''We knocked one in. He gave us a chance.''
Stepan had a short-handed goal 4:55 into the third. With New York killing Dominic Moore's two-minute minor for tripping Cody Eakin, Nash picked up Tyler Seguin's offensive zone turnover and sprung Stepan with a headman pass. Niemi stopped Stepan's initial shot but couldn't control the rebound, and the New York center stuffed the puck into the net.
Stalberg added his fifth of the season 3:05 later to push the advantage to 5-1. Roussel's seventh of the season at 8:40 cut the deficit to 5-2. Valeri Nichushkin appeared to score with 6:58 left in regulation, but a coach's challenge and a video replay showed the Stars were offside on the play.
Megna's goal at 13:38 of the third was his first of the season, his first as a Ranger and his sixth NHL goal.
''What a pass by (Nash),'' Megna said. ''I just had my stick on the ice. It went right off the post and in the net. It was unbelievable.''
NOTES: Rangers prospect center Aleksi Saarela assisted on Casper Kapanen's game-winning goal in Finland's 4-3 gold medal game win over Russia in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Tuesday. Saarela finished the tournament with four goals and three assists in seven games. ... Nash played in his 900th NHL game. ... Chris Kreider missed the game with a cut on his knuckle. He had played in New York's previous 39 games this season. Due to the injury, the Rangers called up Megna from AHL Hartford Monday. ... New York scratched Dylan McIlrath and Emerson Etem. Kevin Hayes replaced Etem in the lineup after being scratched in New York's last two games. ... Dallas scratched Radek Faksa, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak.