Strong second period helps Rangers down struggling 'Canes

Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash all scored during a second-period barrage that propelled the New York Rangers to a 4-1 win over the fading Carolina Panthers at PNC Arena.

Stepan and Nash also notched an assist to support a season-high 48-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist as the Rangers picked up two critical points. New York remained tied with the rival Islanders for the final two playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference entering its final 10 regular-season games.

Brian Boyle finished off the victory, which upped the Rangers to 3-0-1 over their last four outings, with an empty-net tally right before the final horn sounded.

"It was a great win, and Hank played great," Boyle remarked. "The big boys made some big plays in the second period. And Hank? He's the King!"

Zac Dalpe recorded the lone goal against Lundqvist, who outdueled counterpart Dan Ellis to deal the Hurricanes a fourth straight loss and 11th defeat in 12 games.

"That's a lot of rubber at the net for a team, and (Lundqvist) came up with some big saves," Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller stated. "I don't know what more our guys can do. There were great scoring chances. We asked them to go to the net, get second and third rebounds. We did everything you're supposed to do, and were only able to beat him once."

Ellis stopped 27-of-30 shots before being pulled after two periods. Justin Peters finished with eight saves in relief.

Neither team scored during a fast-paced first period that featured a combined 26 shots, but the Rangers tallied three times in the second to break the game open.

The first two came within a span of 31 seconds.

With New York on a power play, Brad Richards led a rush up the ice before delivering a backhand centering feed that Stepan one-timed while all alone in front exactly two minutes into the frame.

Shortly after the ensuing faceoff, Stepan dumped the puck down the left boards and Nash stole it away from Ellis with the Carolina netminder leaving the crease. The playmaking wing promptly found Callahan for an easy tap-in into the vacated net to quickly put the Rangers up by a 2-0 count.

Nash made it a three-goal differential on New York's next power-play chance, taking a pass from Mats Zuccarello and skating into the middle before spinning around and whipping a wrister past Ellis' stick side 8:41 prior to the second intermission.

Lundqvist made the lead stand by backing up a 14-save first period with 14 more in the second, but lost his shutout near the midway mark of the final session after Carolina capitalized on a Rangers' giveaway.

The turnover led to a Hurricanes' charge that ended when Dalpe fired a give from Jeff Skinner by the reigning Vezina Trophy recipient with 10:33 left to play.

It was the only blemish against Lundqvist, who turned back 20 more shots during a busy third period to cap off an outstanding performance.

"It was a helluva game," said Richards of Lundqvist's effort. "Obviously where our energy level was tonight, we needed him to do that. I don't know where we would have been without him."

Peters was pulled for an extra attacker with around 1:30 left to play, enabling Boyle to score with one second still on the clock after forcing a turnover in the Carolina zone.

Game Notes

Dalpe had been recalled from the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate in Charlotte prior to the game ... Alexander Semin, Carolina's leader in assists (26) this season, sat out the contest due to an upper-body injury ... The Hurricanes have now dropped seven straight at PNC Arena, the club's longest home skid since an 0-6-0-1 mark from Dec. 27-Jan. 20, 2003 ... The Rangers recorded their seventh consecutive victory over Carolina and improved to 23-6-3 in their last 32 matchups against Southeast Division foes. That includes an 8-3-1 mark this season ... Stepan has now registered three goals and three assists during a four-game point streak ... New York moved to 12-2-1 when scoring first this season and 11-0-0 when leading after two periods.