NEW YORK — The long-awaited return of forward Rick Nash wasn’t enough for the New York Rangers to overcome a superb performance by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.
Rask stopped 43 shots, five from Nash, in Boston’s 2-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
It was Nash’s first game back since he suffered a concussion Oct. 8 at San Jose. He missed 17 games due to the injury. In his absence, the Rangers were 9-8 and scored just three goals in their last three games.
Prior to the concussion, Nash registered three assists in three games. The left wing led New York (10-11-0) with 21 goals in the truncated 2012-13 season.
Nash skated on a line with center Brad Richards and right wing Ryan Callahan.
Rask is now 5-1-1 in his last seven starts for Boston (14-6-1), which entered the night second to Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.
Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t tested nearly as much Rask. The Ranger goalie stopped 20 Boston shots.
Richards had the best chance to tie the game, but his shot off a Rask rebound hit the post with just over 14 minutes to play in the game.
Daniel Paille’s short-handed goal, a backhander, gave Boston a 2-0 edge at 11:30. But the Rangers struck back quickly on the power play, receiving a goal from center Derick Brassard from John Moore and Chris Kreider just 1:01 after Boston’s goal.
Prior to the Ranger power-play goal, their 13th of the season, the Bruins had successfully killed off 33 straight penalties over its last 9-plus games. The last power-play goal scored against Boston before Brassard’s was by Pittsburgh on Oct. 30.
Boston went ahead 1-0 at 4:58 of the second period on left wing Shawn Thornton’s third goal of the season. Thornton picked up a loose puck in front of the Ranger bench and fired a wrist shot over Lundqvist’s left shoulder from the right faceoff circle.
Nash’s return seemed to inspire the Rangers as they controlled the first period, out-shooting Boston 16-6. His first solid scoring chance came with just over two minutes left in the opening period when his snap shot from inside the left circle was turned away by Rask.
Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk took down Chris Kreider as he skated in alone on Rask at 6:16 of the first period. The officials awarded Kreider a penalty shot, but Rask made a kick save on the Ranger left wing’s wrist shot.
NOTES: Bruins C Patrice Bergeron played in his 600th NHL game Tuesday night. … Ranger RW Derek Dorsett received nine minutes in penalties in the first two periods, bringing his season-total to 82 minutes, the most in the NHL. … Bruins G Tuukkaa Rask’s GAA of 1.64 entering the Ranger game was the third lowest in the league behind Los Angeles’ Ben Scrivens (1.24) and Minnesota’s Josh Harding (1.25). … Rangers C Derek Stepan has four goals and five assists in his last 10 games.
Canadiens 6, Wild 2
Max Pacioretty recorded a natural hat trick as Montreal routed visiting Minnesota.
Pacioretty’s second career three-goal game paced Montreal’s highest scoring output of the season. Michael Bournival, Danny Briere and Alex Galchenyuk added goals while Carey Price turned aside 25 shots.
Nino Niederreiter and Dany Heatley replied for the Wild, who saw their four-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt. Netminder Josh Harding was pulled in favor of Darcy Kuemper after surrendering Pacioretty’s third goal of the night.
After the teams played a scoreless first period, the Habs erupted in the second. Pacioretty opened the scoring at 2:57 of the period when a David Desharnais centering attempt caromed off his skate and past Harding — a goal that was held up following a video review — and he extended the lead near the midway point of the period by converting a nifty no-look pass from Desharnais.
Pacioretty completed the natural hat trick on a Montreal power play 3 1/2 minutes later, redirecting a P.K. Subban point shot past Harding. Bournival capped the onslaught with his sixth of the season at 16:16, and Briere and Niederreiter traded goals early in the third period before Galchenyuk punctuated the drubbing with a quick wrist shot that beat Kuemper up high with 12:01 remaining.
NOTES: Pacioretty found himself in a scary situation but avoided serious injury eight minutes into the game after he was run into the curved glass stanchion near the Minnesota bench by Niederreiter. Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebra and a concussion 2 1/2 years ago after he was hit in a similar fashion by Boston Bruins D Zdeno Chara. … Montreal is the only team to have scored more than two goals on Harding in a game this season — and has done it twice. … Price shattered his stick over the post after Heatley scored on a power play with 1.3 seconds remaining.