The Rangers lifted the curtain on their 2014-15 season Thursday night in St. Louis and Rick Nash seemed to already be in mid-season form, scoring twice and finishing with three points to lift New York to an exciting 3-2 opening night victory over the Blues.
Nash, who had scored the game's first goal and later assisted on a Chris Kreider goal, netted the game-winner with just 1:50 to play, snapping a 2-2 tie. Martin St. Louis made a brilliant backhand pass from the goal line into the slot where Nash buried his second goal of the game at 18:10.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his first career victory over the Blues, stopping 23 of 25 St. Louis shots. He had been 0-4-0 in five previous outings against the Blues.
The tandem of Kreider and Nash had teamed up on the first two Rangers' goals, with Nash scoring and Kreider assisting in the opening period and the pair flipping roles in the third.
After letting a precarious 1-0 lead slip away on a Jaden Schwartz goal early in the third period, the Rangers regained the lead less than two minutes after Mats Zuccarello fired up his team by engaging with T.J. Oshie in a fight. Zuccarello, an absolute pest and thorn in the Blues' side all night long, dropped the gloves with Oshie to the side of the Lundqvist's net at 5:07 of the third. Though Oshie won a clear decision, Zuccarello's courage and passion lit a fire under his teammates.
Shortly thereafter Nash sprung Kreider on a clean breakaway and Kreider did not make a mistake, calmly beating Blues goalie Brian Elliott with a forehand shot to the blocker side at 6:30, lifting New York into a 2-1 lead.
However the Blues would not go quietly and Vladimir Tarasenko beat Lundqvist short side off the rush at 10:42, tying the score, 2-2.
Nash had provided the Rangers their first lead of the season just 4:01 into play, with a major assist from his linemate, Kreider. After Nash's initial right wing shot was blocked by Blues' defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Kreider forced the Blues into a giveaway by quickly zeroing in on Shattenkirk from behind, stealing the puck, and slipping a pass to Nash. Number 61 did the rest, skating into the high slot before ripping a low hard wrist shot past Elliott, giving the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.
The goal was one of many highlights for the Rangers in a dominating first period in which they outshot their hosts 16-8. Nash and Kreider were right in the middle of many of the things the Rangers did well--not only in the first period, but throughout the game. Both played with passion and drive at both ends of the ice--including a memorable, and clutch, diving blocked shot by Nash midway through the opening period.
Despite a major shots advantage, which included prime scoring chances for Ryan McDonagh, Zuccarello, and Derick Brassard, the Rangers carried only that 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Lee Stempniak nearly doubled the advantage with seven seconds to play, but his right-wing snap shot off a rush out of the penalty box was stopped--just barely--by Elliott, who looked shaky making the glove save.
The Blues collected themselves in the second period and carried the game to the Rangers, outshooting New York 8-4, with Lundqvist making several key saves. his best came with 5:05 to play in the second when he flashed his glove up high to deny a wicked, rising Vladimir Tarasenko snap shot off a 2-on-1 rush with only Dan Girardi back defending for the Rangers.
Buoyed by Lundqvist's strong play, and a penalty killing unit that was a perfect 4-for-4 through 40 minutes of play, including three kills in the second, the visitors carried their one goal lead into the second intermission, but it didn't last much longer.
Schwartz tied the game just 92 seconds into the third period, cashing in the rebound of a David Backes shot. Kreider, though, off-set that score just five minutes later, silencing the previously-raucous Blues crowd, before the decibel level rose again when Tarasenko pulled the home team even midway through the third.
Four players made their Rangers' debuts on Thursday, including 19 year-old Anthony Duclair, who skated on a line with J,T. Miller and Stempniak. The four new Blueshirts brought to an even 1,000 the amount of players who have appeared in at least one game with the New York Rangers.
Following the game the Rangers boarded a team charter to Columbus where they will skate against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.