Despite the New York Rangers missing Henrik Lundqvist for their match against the Carolina Hurricanes due to illness, the Eastern Conference leaders would show that their offense is quite capable of finding ways to win.
Looking for a win to help build a cushion before taking on the returning Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, head coach John Tortorella trusted Martin Biron to provide his team with solid goaltending against Cam Ward and the struggling Southeastern Division club.
Biron was more than serviceable early, holding off the Hurricanes in the first period after Marian Gaborik captured a rebound off the end glass from a Dan Girardi point shot, spiking it past Ward and into the net before the netminder realized his vulnerability.
The Rangers nursed the 1-0 lead until halfway through the second period, when it became a showcase for their top line once again. Brad Richards connected off the rush with Carl Hagelin, breaking through the Carolina defense with speed and sniping his 22nd goal of the year, then connected with Hagelin again a few minutes later when Marian Gaborik pushed the puck behind the Carolina net. Hagelin dug out from the boards and sent a pass to Richards at the goal line, and his shot from a sharp angle put New York ahead 3-0 with give minutes to go in the second period.
Then, just as suddenly as the Ranger lead had expanded, the Hurricanes blew their way back into the game.
With Mats Zuccarello in the box, the Rangers PK would be caught standing still as Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal moved the puck around the zone before firing on Biron. Tim Brent would find the loose puck off a rebound and fire it over a sprawling Biron to break his shutout bid and bring Carolina back into the game.
Almost before the Hurricanes goal had been announced over the Madison Square Garden PA, Carolina stuck again, this time with Brent Sutter sending a last-second pass to a charging Drayson Bowman, who chipped it over Biron's shoulder before he could react.
The Rangers found relief from the sudden surge of Carolina momentum when Tim Gleason clipped Ruslan Fedotenko with a high stick just before the end of the second period, then saw Andreas Nodl called for holding early in the third period for a brief 5-on-3 power play. Though New York didn't score on either penalty, it allowed for a chance to refocus despite giving up one shorthanded rush to Eric Staal that the Hurricanes captain would not be able to convert.
New York's top line finally added to their total and granted themselves more breathing room when Hagelin battled for the puck along the end boards in the Carolina zone, then moved in to stuff the puck past Ward's outstretched leg pad to restore the two goal lead.
Carolina attempted to put another goal past Biron, but the netminder held his ground through the remainder of the game, denying the Hurricanes' attempts to strike with an extra attacker after Ward was called to the bench with two minutes left.
The 4-2 victory pushes the Rangers to 93 points, a four-point lead over the Penguins in the Atlantic Division in advance of their Thursday matchup.