NEW YORK — Rick Nash came up big in the third period for the New York Rangers.
Nash tied the score with a highlight-reel goal in the opening minute of the third and then set up Jimmy Vesey's winner later in the period to rally the Rangers from two goals down for a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
After cutting a 2-0 first-period deficit in half in the second, Nash tied it 24 seconds into the third as he raced up ice, breezed past two Hurricanes defenders and stuck a backhander off the crossbar and in to tie it.
Then, with 5:12 remaining in regulation and the Rangers on a power play, Nash slipped the puck under Carolina goalie Cam Ward across the front of the goal to Vesey, and the rookie forward converted with the go-ahead score.
"I think when you're a leader and you're expected to be one of the top players, you try to do that every night," Nash said. "Some nights it's there, some nights it's not. . But I know that's part of my game, that I have to help these guys and lift them when things aren't going right."
Vesey's goal was his eighth of the season and first since Nov. 12.
Viktor Stalberg scored twice in the first period in his return to New York for the first time since leaving the Rangers to sign with Carolina in the off-season. Cam Ward finished with 25 saves as the Hurricanes lost for the third time in four games.
"For two periods we were by far the better team and didn't allow much of anything aside from the one goal and a couple other chances on the break," Stalberg said. "Other than that, they didn't have any zone time. We were putting pressure on them every single shift. Frustrating ending here."
On the tiebreaking goal, the Rangers had the man-advantage because Hurricanes defenceman Ron Hainsey was serving a double-minor for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct. Vesey converted 95 seconds into the four-minute power play.
"You're going to get calls and you're going to get calls against you," Stalberg continued. "It is what it is. We're not happy about it, but we should find a way to kill it off."
Stalberg got the Blue Jackets on the scoreboard 5:22 into the first period as he fired a wrist shot between Lundqvist's legs.
Stalberg made it 2-0 with 7:05 left in the period. After Rangers defenceman Kevin Klein turned the puck over, Jay McClement shot the loose puck toward the net and Stalberg knocked in the rebound for his sixth of the season and fourth in five games.
Holden cut the deficit in half at 9:13 of the second as he elevated a wrist shot over Ward's outstretched arm for his third of the season. Holden has three goals and seven assists in the last 16 games.
"We didn't start off the game the way we wanted," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after his 270th game with the team, passing Colin Campbell for sole possession of ninth place on the franchise's all-time list. "You get behind the 8-ball against a hardworking team that can check real well, you need some people to come out and take charge."
In recent games, the Rangers have struggled to play with the speed and skill that propelled them to the top of the standings through the first quarter of the season. However, that changed in the second period.
"I think the second period we started to get things going, playing with speed and getting possession, holding on to pucks down low in their end," Vesey said. "We got the first one and they might've tightened up. We talked about it before the game, but it was a big two points against an Eastern Conference team."
The Rangers have won 12 straight games against the Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden and are 20-3-0 against Carolina since Feb. 22, 2011.
NOTES: The Rangers granted a "Make-A-Dream Come True" experience for 11-year-old Bryce Rogerson from New York Presbyterian and Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley. Bryce had the opportunity to be an honorary Rangers Coach for a day. ... D Adam Clendening and F Josh Jooris were healthy scratches for New York. ... F Mika Zibanejad missed his fifth game with a broken left fibula. ... On Monday, the Hurricanes placed Jordan Staal (concussion) on injured reserve. ... Carolina scratched D Klas Dahlbeck, D Ryan Murray and F Brock McGinn.
Hurricanes: At Boston on Thursday night before returning to Madison Square Garden on Saturday in the finale of a three-game trip.
Rangers: At Buffalo on Thursday night.