Eleven days and four winless games for the New York Rangers. That is what life was like for the Blueshirts without Rick Nash. However, last night, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nash made his presence felt almost immediately in what was a thrilling performance. Thirty-two seconds into the game Nash recorded the first of what would be a 12-shot, 16-attempt night that was capped with a beautiful goal with 1:33 to play.
Bolstered by the return of Nash, Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers thoroughly dominated the first period against the Lightning, racking up 20 shots, 2 goals, and allowing only 2 shots, albeit one found the back of the net. However, the Rangers left the first period with two goals under their belt and a lead heading into the first intermission, something they haven’t been doing much of recently.
This was the game Rangers fans have been waiting for. This is the game everyone knew was possible and were waiting through the first 18 games for it to happen. The Rangers played aggressively and came out shooting the puck and Nash was at the head of that charge, trying to create chances, rebounds, and opportunities. Even Brad Richards, who had been looking like he had been playing hockey on a Florida lake in the summer recently, seemed to have new life.
When the Rangers acquired Rick Nash this is exactly what everyone wanted to see. His play, coupled with the efforts of Ryan Callahan, who seems to be getting better every game, was the perfect pick-me-up for a Rangers team that appeared listless on offense without him. Richards has been in a slump, not having scored goal in 14 games now, and was unable to pick up any of the slack in Nash’s absence, registering only 1 point during that time. Marian Gaborik has now gone six games without a goal and registered only one point in Nash’s absence.
Given the track record of the players on this roster one has to figure that the slumps will be ending soon and goals will be flying into the opponents net on a regular basis any time now. Last night could have been the start and it all started with the return of Rick Nash.