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After the Rangers got two points in Monday night's shootout win over the Hurricanes, members of the team said that the key now was for the Rangers to back that fairly uninspiring win up with a performance that kept them trending in the right direction.
Mission accomplished. The Rangers weren't perfect against the Devils on Tuesday night in New Jersey, but they were as close as they've been in more than a week as they skated off with a 3-2 win.
The victory was doubly sweet for the Rangers because it moved them back into playoff position with 19 games left to play while knocking the Devils down to the ninth spot as they continue to wander aimlessly without Martin Brodeur in the lineup. It's going to take a lot more winning for the Rangers to keep that spot, of course, and Tuesday's game made it feel very much within reach.
There was Michael Del Zotto smacking a Derek Stepan pass out of the air and driving it into the net for a shorthanded goal. And there was Del Zotto again, hitting Rick Nash in stride for the winning goal and providing a reminder that he's got an offensive skill set on the blueline that the Rangers don't get from anyone else.
More importantly, Del Zotto was battling the likes of David Clarkson and Patrick Elias to a standstill all night. For those who remember the Eastern Conference Finals from last season, that's a welcome if much too late sight that bodes well for future Rangers victories.
Nash's goal was a thing of beauty from the pass all the way to the shot that beat Johan Hedberg on the glove side, but almost as appealing was the edge Nash showed in a divisional game that the Rangers really had to win. It was apparent up and down the lineup that the team was playing with the requisite fire, something that paid off with two first period goals for a team that had two goals in their previous three games.
And, finally, there was Henrik Lundqvist bringing his best despite being on the second night of a back-to-back and taking an elbow from Dan Girardi that he admitted caused him headaches over the final period-plus. With 19 games left and almost no margin for error, the Rangers need all they can get from Lundqvist and he's delivered in a big way so far this week.
Their indifferent play for so long has made it impossible for the Rangers to avoid a grind the rest of the way. Tuesday night built some confidence that such a grind is one they can wind up winning.