NEW YORK (AP)—Even at 42, Mark Messier still has a flair for dramatics.
Messier enjoyed being tied with Gordie Howe on the NHL points list for two periods before he passed Mr. Hockey in the closing seconds of the New York Rangers’ 3-0 victory Tuesday night over the Dallas Stars.
The Rangers captain scored the first and last goals to give him 1,851 points and set off an on-ice hug with his teammates.
“I always find it hard to celebrate something like that, but what I have to realize is it’s a tremendous honor for all the people I played with and the game of hockey itself,” Messier said.
Messier found an empty net for a short-handed goal with 4.7 seconds left.
“Well, I wasn’t really thinking about that point right there,” Messier said. “Obviously if the opportunity presented itself, I wasn’t going to pass it up.”
It was just like the night in 1994 when he guaranteed New York would beat New Jersey in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals and stay alive in route to the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
Messier sealed that win by landing the puck flat in the empty New Jersey goal.
“Besides being a clutch player, he has a thing to come up with the big moment and make it fun for the people around,” said Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch, Messier’s teammate for 10 seasons.
The second goal came when Alex Kovalev fed Messier as he streaked down the right wing. When Messier hit the back of the vacated net, he threw his hands up in exultation, and the referees allowed the New York bench to empty and greet him in the Dallas zone.
“I can’t lie, I definitely wanted to do it in this rink,” Messier said. “You only have one opportunity to do things like this.”
Rangers coach and general manager Glen Sather clapped on the bench as Messier’s family hugged in the stands. Sather was Messier’s first NHL coach when the star was just 18.
Back then he didn’t have any thoughts about passing Howe, a man Messier said was very well-respected in his Edmonton, Alberta, home.
“I was having a tough enough time staying out of Glen’s office when I was 17, 18 years old,” Messier said. “I think everybody who comes into the league, you feel like you want to come in and establish themselves and contribute to a team and obviously win a Stanley Cup. That’s what we grow up with.
“You don’t think about scoring goals, making assists or entering the Hall of Fame or doing those things.”
Messier gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 1:37 into the second period, earning his 1,850th point in his 1,691st game. Howe played 1,767 games over 26 NHL seasons. Wayne Gretzky is first with 2,857 points.
Messier’s linemate Matthew Barnaby also scored in the second period for the Rangers, 4-1-2-1 at home this season. Jussi Markkanen made 34 saves for his first win of the season and sixth career shutout. Markkanen spelled Mike Dunham, who didn’t start for the first time in nine games.
Dunham served as Markkanen’s backup for precautionary reasons relating to a sore groin. Markkanen allowed five goals in his Rangers debut, a 5-0 loss to Columbus in New York’s second game this season.
“We all knew that Mark was one point shy, and we all know how good of a team Dallas is so it was a big game for all of us,” Markkanen said.
Marty Turco made 17 saves for the Stars, who had a four-game unbeaten streak snapped (3-0-1).
“We made a lot of mistakes, and it’s definitely hard to string together wins when you make mistakes,” Stars forward Bill Guerin said.
Dallas nearly cut into the lead 1:14 into the third period when Rob DiMaio rang a shot of the post behind Markkanen.
Later in the period, Brenden Morrow raced in on a breakaway, but Markkanen denied him with a flailing stop of his hard drive. A puck also squeezed behind Markkanen and hit the left post.
The 28-year-old goalie also stopped a shot with his mask, just before the Rangers rushed up ice and Messier made more hockey history.
Kovalev swiftly carried the puck through the slot and took a shot. Messier charged in from the right side and got his stick on the hard drive, deflecting it past Turco to give New York a 1-0 lead.
“I wish it wasn’t against us, but everybody in the league is happy for Mark,” Guerin said. “He’s been the complete package for 25 years, and he deserves everything he gets. He’s just a machine that keeps on going and going.”
Barnaby made it 2-0 with 4:59 left in the second, cutting across in front of the goal from right to left and beating Turco.
Dallas had a four-minute power play in the third, in which they had 17 shots, but couldn’t dent Markkanen.
Messier is in eighth place with 682 goals, tied for third with 1,169 career assists, and second to Howe in games played. He’s a 16-time All-Star and six-time Stanley Cup champion.
His first point came on his mother’s birthday in 1979, Howe’s last NHLseason.
Dallas was 6-1-1 in eight previous games against New York. … Rangers D Tom Poti sat out due to the flu. C Petr Nedved also missed the game because of a strained neck. … Markkanen had five shutouts in 36 career games beforethis season with Edmonton.