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Rangers rookie comes through in shootout

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Their inability to score goals recently has tested the New York Rangers' patience, so it made sense the shootout goal that eventually locked up a much-needed win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night would require plenty of it as well.

J.T. Miller responded to Rangers coach John Tortorella's call to take New York's third shootout shot by using the move that inspired Tortorella to select him. Along the way, the rookie showed why his coach often balances his praise by discussing Miller's mistakes. After a good first fake, Miller juggled the puck on his stick and nearly missed his chance before flipping it over prone Carolina goalie Dan Ellis at the last possible moment, barely before he skated past the net.

The goal, along with one by Rick Nash and two stops in the shootout by goalie Henrik Lundqvist, gave the Rangers a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden. It also snapped a three-game losing streak and moved New York (14-12-2) within two points of the Hurricanes (15-11-2) for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Tortorella said he turned to Miller because he knew he would have the confidence to "make a play." And because he liked a similar move the rookie made -- and whiffed on -- in a shootout at Ottawa earlier this season.

"He almost fanned again," Tortorella said. "He went so slow I think he almost missed it about three or four times. It certainly wasn't a great move, but you give him credit for having the ... to hold onto it, keep it and put it in the net.

"He's a confident kid," Tortorella, who has talked in the past of possibly needing to rein in some of Miller's confidence in the future, said with a smile and a pause. "He's a confident kid. I'll leave it at that."

The Rangers sorely needed the confidence boost after scoring just two goals in their past three games and trailing 1-0 at the end of the first period, when the Hurricanes outshot them 14-6.

Eric Staal gave Carolina a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first period before Rangers center Derek Stepan tied it in the second.

It was the 14th goal of the season for Staal and it came with his brother, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, attending his first game since he took a puck to the face on March 5.

"We felt that (first) period we were all over them and it was nice to be rewarded at the end of the period with one," said Eric Staal, who added that it was good to see his brother was healing well. Wanted to take that into the second, but they started opening up a little bit and we played right along with it ... and they took it to us in the second, and then in the third it got back to (being) tight both ways and then anything can happen in the shootout.

"Obviously, you want to go after that extra point. We felt like we played a pretty good game and were unable to capitalize on getting that."

Lundqvist made 29 saves entering the shootout and Ellis had 35 stops, including one on a shot by Marian Gaborik in the final 10 seconds of regulation. Ellis also denied two close-range shots early in overtime and a late flurry.

In the shootout round, Nash deked Ellis before scoring to his left on a backhand shot, and Lundqvist stopped Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin on shots to his right before Miller methodically got Ellis to commit before hanging on to flip in the puck.

"The fact that he has a little faith in me there means a lot," the 20-year-old Miller said of Tortorella. "It was my last chance; just tried to wait him out and I just tried to flick it in. I only had a foot to drill it there or so. That's obviously not how I planned it, but ... I was almost on the other side of the goal line so I didn't even know if it would count.

"It was kind of nerve-wracking at first, but it felt good. Unbelievable feeling."

The Rangers just missed taking a 2-1 lead at 12:06 of the third period when Ryan Callahan's shot was nudged by Ellis and almost crossed the line before the goalie fell onto it.

NOTES: Marc Staal was shown on the scoreboard in the third period, earning a loud ovation. He thinks he can return this season, Carolina center Jordan Staal told reporters on Monday morning after talking to his brother the previous night. Jordan, who said Marc sustained facial fractures after getting struck in the area of his right eye, said he thinks Marc will wear a visor after the incident. The league currently does not mandate them, but is exploring doing so. ... Hurricanes forward and former Ranger Adam Hall, claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay on Saturday, made his debut for the Hurricanes. ... Rangers forward Arron Asham, who has been out since Feb. 19 with a back issue, participated in the morning skate and told reporters he could return soon. ... Tortorella tried to spark his slumping offense by reuniting his top forwards on the first line to start the game, with Gaborik going back to the right wing, Nash to the left and Brad Richards at center. Tortorella said after the game he would have to evaluate the line by watching video but that he liked the performance of the second line.
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