NEW YORK – Initially, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t pleased with Derek Stepan and his linemates.
By the end of the night, Vigneault’s assessment of his top line had changed dramatically.
Derek Stepan scored his first three goals of the season, and Carl Hagelin added his first two as the Rangers had their best offensive output of the season Saturday night in a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It didn’t start the way I wanted, not just the game but (Stepan’s) line. Their first three shifts were totally in our end,” Vigneault said. “I must’ve sat that line out eight, nine minutes of the first period.”
The trio of Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider finished with three goals and six assists, and a combined rating of plus-7.
“I like the way they responded,” Vigneault said. “Challenged them, and they responded the right way. They went out onto the ice and had some solid puck possession shifts.
“That line ended up being real good for us at the end of the night after having a so-so start.”
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves and grabbed first star honors for New York (6-7), which is on a season-high, three-game winning streak.
Hagelin scored the Rangers’ first two goals of the game, and Stepan netted the final three.
Andrej Sekera scored a power-play goal with 37 seconds left in the second period to provide the only offense for the Hurricanes. Justin Peters, subbing for Carolina’s top two goalies who are injured, made 33 saves in the loss and fell to 0-5.
“We’ve been chasing the game lately, and we’re not getting the timely saves,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said.
Hagelin opened the scoring 8:46 into the game. Brad Richards sprung Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot with a clearing pass. Hagelin cut to the slot before beating Peters with a backhander.
“Hags’ speed definitely helps us,” Vigneault said. “When he scored the way he did tonight and backing down their defense the way he can do, it’s so important to a team having success and winning games.”
Islanders 3, Bruins 1
In Uniondale, New York, John Tavares, Andrew MacDonald and Thomas Vanek notched second-period goals, and backup Kevin Poulin made 26 saves for his first win of the season.
Blackhawks 5, Jets 1
In Winnipeg, Brandon Bollig, Patrick Sharp and Nick Leddy scored within a 4:55 span in the second period as Chicago extended its winning streak to three games.
Ducks 6, Sabres 3
In Buffalo, Emerson Etem and Corey Perry both scored two goals.
Lightning 4, Blues 2
In Tampa, Brett Connolly and Valtteri Filppula scored in the third period.
Flyers 1, Devils 0
In Newark, New Jersey, after being embarrassed by Washington at home 24 hours earlier, Philadelphia ground out a win.
Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 0
In Columbus, Deryk Engelland, Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen scored, and backup Jeff Zatkoff made 19 saves in his first NHL win.
Capitals 3, Panthers 2 (SO)
In Washington, Nicklas Backstrom scored in the first period and added the winning goal in the shootout.
Canucks 4, Maple Leafs 0
In Vancouver, Roberto Luongo made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season.
Predators 4, Kings 3
In Los Angeles, David Legwand’s second goal of the game with 3:56 left carried Nashville past the Kings.
Red Wings 5, Oilers 0
In Edmonton, Petr Mrazek needed to make only 14 saves to earn his first NHL shutout in his third game as Detroit cruised to its third straight victory.
Avalanche 4, Canadiens 1
In Denver, Gabriel Landeskog scored a goal and assisted on rookie Nathan Mackinnon’s go-ahead score.
Coyotes 3, Sharks 2 (SO)
In San Jose, Antoine Vermette scored in the opening minute and then got the winning goal in the shootout.