The 41-year-old Messier scored twice in a three-minute span and Mike Richter moved within three wins of 300, giving Bryan Trottier a win in his first game as Rangers coach as New York beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 Wednesday night.
The captain of the Rangers missed 41 games last season with shoulder problems, scoring just seven goals, but Messier was strong at the start of his 24th NHL season, moving past Detroit's Steve Yzerman and into seventh place on the all-time goals list.
"Mark played a very intelligent game,'' Trottier said. "He's got great poise. I don't know if there's a better leader in sports.''
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Richter won No. 297 against the defending Eastern Conference champions, losing his shutout bid when Rod Brind'Amour scored with 3:41 left.
"We're not really worried about what everyone is going to say or who is going to look at the score sheet and make their judgment calls,'' Carolina's Erik Cole said of the season-opening loss on the heels of a fantastic playoff run. "Nobody really gave us anything to stir our pot last year during the playoffs so we're going to keep playing our same game and try to bore everybody to death out there.''
Messier scored his 659th goal nine seconds after Carolina failed to score on one of its nine unsuccessful power plays. He added goal No. 660 three minutes later from the side of the net as the Rangers cashed in with the man advantage to go up 2-0.
"We have a chance this year to control our own destiny,'' Messier said. "So, through training camp we worked hard on detail. I think it showed tonight. This was one of the best games we've played as a team in a long time. For the first game of the year that was an unbelievable pace.''
Petr Nedved, moving from center to the wing this season, scored New York's third goal of the period when his shot from the circle went off the stick of Carolina defenseman Bret Hedican and past a stunned Arturs Irbe.
Nedved added his second with 14:18 left in the game to complete
New York's convincing win.
The Rangers used seven players added to the roster since last
season's finale, but were without injured star Pavel Bure, who is
still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
"We got a great team effort from Mike Richter on out,'' Trottier said.
The sellout crowd of 18,730 stood and cheered for 15 minutes
before the drop of the puck as the Carolina mascot -- Stormy -- brought the Prince of Wales Trophy onto the ice and the scoreboard replayed highlights of the team's playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals.
Owner Peter Karmanos, coach Paul Maurice, and players Ron Francis, Brind'Amour and Glen Wesley then helped raise the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference championship banners to the top of the RBC Center.
Carolina appeared to get a jump from all of the emotion, going on a two-man advantage less than two minutes in as Messier took a holding penalty and New York was called for too many men on the ice.
But the Hurricanes didn't get a shot on goal during either power
play. They had just three with seven minutes left in the period
before Richter made a clutch save on Cole from the slot with the
Rangers on the power play, then stopped a blast by Sami Kapanen as
the opening period neared a close.
"You'll never say no to a 5-on-3, but the last place you want
it is in the opening game within the first five minutes,'' Maurice
said. "You would like to get everybody's legs into it. It wasn't
demoralizing, though. It was too early in the game to have an
Nedved played on a line with Lindros and Radek Dvorak. ...
Carolina kept seven defensemen on its roster and Marek Malik was
the odd man out in the opener. ... Messier's two-goal game was the
120th of his career. ... The Hurricanes were 3-0-3 in their
previous six home openers.