NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers, boosted by the return of Rick Nash and several key players, busted out with a two-goal first period and went on to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
The win at Madison Square Garden snapped the Rangers' four-game losing streak, with each defeat coming while Nash was out with what he has called a combination of injuries.
Nash put the capper on the win with a goal on his 12th shot of the game with 1:33 left. He also had an assist.
Carl Hagelin scored his seventh goal of the season for the Rangers (9-8-2) and Derek Stepan added his fourth, with a sharp assist from Ryan Callahan.
Marc Staal scored a rare power-play goal for the Rangers. Ryan McDonagh, who also came back from an injury along with Michael Del Zotto, had assists for New York along with Dan Girardi and J.T. Miller.
Martin St. Louis scored his fifth goal of the year for Tampa Bay (9-10-1), which dropped its third straight game. Steven Stamkos extended his points streak to eight games with an assist, and Eric Brewer also assisted on the play for Tampa Bay, which opened a four-game road trip.
Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon, starting for the third time in the past week, made 38 saves as the Rangers tied a season high with 42 shots. Henrik Lundqvist made 24 stops for New York, including 14 in the third period, turning back several tough shots.
Before the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said "I hope so, I hope so" when asked if he thought Nash's return could help jolt his team from its recent funk. Nash did just that as the Rangers quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead then kept the Lightning at bay the rest of the game.
The Rangers dominated in shots 35-11 through the first two periods but nearly entered the third with just a one-goal lead. Then Staal persisted to poke in a rebound while Garon was left sprawling, making it 3-1 with 3:52 left in the second period. The power-play goal, with assists from Nash and Miller, was just the Rangers' eighth of the season with a man-advantage.
New York entered the game with the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference and the Lightning had the most, but the Rangers seemed bent on skewing those numbers in the first period.
They dominated for most of the period, relentlessly attacking early and building a 2-0 lead midway through the first.
Hagelin got New York on the board with a nice deke before nailing a slap shot from the left faceoff circle for a 1-0 lead at 7:23 of the first.
The Rangers went up 2-0 a little more than a minute later thanks to a slick backhand pass behind the net from Callahan to Stepan, who snapped it past Garon at 8:40.
New York tied a season high with 20 shots in the first period and limited Tampa Bay to two, but St. Louis made the second one count, keeping the Lightning within one after getting outplayed throughout the period.
St. Louis streaked to the net, where he took a pass from Brewer and quickly flipped a pretty backhand shot past Lundqvist to make it 2-1 with 3:51 left in the first.
NOTES: With Nash returning after his four-game absence, the Rangers demoted defenseman Chris Kreider to AHL affiliate Connecticut. "I think Chris has a lot to learn about the game and has a lot to learn about being a pro," Tortorella said. "I think he has pretty good attributes to be a player; he just has to put them together." ... McDonagh had missed one game for the Rangers and Del Zotto was out for two. ... Lightning left winger Ryan Malone missed his ninth game with a lower-body injury, but the club hoped to have him join it during the road trip. ... Tampa Bay defenseman Sami Salo was out with a lower-body injury and is listed as day to day. ... Tampa Bay forward B.J. Crombeen and Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel got into an extended bout in front of the Rangers bench shortly after New York went up 2-0 in the first period.