What it means: The Rangers rattled off their third consecutive win Saturday night with another decisive victory at Madison Square Garden in which the team’s youngsters stole the show. Goalless in his first 12 games of the season, Derek Stepan scored the second hat trick of his career to lead the Rangers to a 5-1 win against the floundering Hurricanes. Carl Hagelin tallied a pair of goals and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 of 28 shots to topple a struggling Carolina team that has now dropped five straight.
Stepan shines: It seemed only a matter of time before Stepan broke out, considering the strong play of his line with Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. The trio has created plenty of chances since being teamed up, and Saturday night Stepan reaped the benefits. After his power-play marker in the second period, Stepan scored off a beautiful, no-look feed from behind the goal line from Zuccarello that gave the Rangers a cushy 4-1 lead in the third. Kreider helped on the play, too, with good forechecking pressure that allowed the Rangers to keep the puck in zone. Stepan shut the door on the Canes later in the period with his third of the night.
How about Hags: Hagelin continues to make an impact since his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the first 10 games of the season. The 25-year-old winger, whose speed and skill have provided a huge boost to the Blueshirts, tallied his first goal of the season in the first period. After cruising through the neutral zone, Hagelin cut to the middle of the ice and launched a sharp backhander that beat Justin Peters for a 1-0 lead at 8:26.
The Swedish forward notched his second of the night in the second period, utilizing his speed out of the penalty box to retrieve a puck left casually near the Canes' red line for a goal that put the Rangers up 2-0 at 8:16.
Power play clicking: The Rangers’ power play, long regarded as the team’s weakest link, got off to a rough start this week. The unit was 0-for-5 Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Ever since, the Rangers have tallied a power-play marker in each of their past three games. Saturday night, it set the stage for Stepan's first goal, on which he wristed a shot past Peters from the left circle for a three-goal Rangers lead in the second period.