NEW YORK (AP) — Rick Nash is showing exactly what the Rangers hoped they were getting when they pried him away from Columbus.
New York is riding high on a three-game winning streak, but instead of being able to fully celebrate their good fortune and the improved play of their newest star, the Rangers are holding their breath as they wait for medical news regarding key defenseman Marc Staal.
Nash broke a third-period tie and added an insurance goal in the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. Any feelings of euphoria were greatly lessened because of concern regarding Staal, who appeared to be struck in the right eye by a deflected puck 5:45 into the third.
"I just looked at it. It's scary," said subdued Rangers coach John Tortorella, who hadn't gotten an update on Staal's condition.
Madison Square Garden was rocking with delight following Nash's goals that were scored about nine minutes apart and pushed the Rangers ahead of the Flyers in the standings, despite New York (11-8-2) playing three fewer games.
Nash, who played his first nine NHL seasons in relative obscurity in Columbus, has four goals in three games since returning from an injury that forced him to miss four.
All seven of his goals this season have been scored in the third period.
"That's my job. That's what I'm trying to do," he said. "It's fun for me to play in front of a sold-out building in a hockey city that truly loves the Rangers."
Nash fired a shot that sneaked under the right arm of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov 2:50 into the third to give New York its second lead. He doubled the advantage to 4-2 with 8:18 left, fighting off a hook on his hands by defenseman Kimmo Timonen and making a shift from backhand to forehand to score.
It is the second time this season the Rangers have won three straight. They are eighth in the East, one point ahead of Philadelphia and one point behind seventh-place New Jersey.
"I just started smiling after he scored the second goal," winning goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "It just feels so good to have a player like that on the team that can be the difference every night."
Ryan Callahan scored two first-period goals and assisted on Nash's second, and Lundqvist made 23 saves for the Rangers, who played without Brad Richards. The star center sat out two nights after he was checked from behind into the boards by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta.
Staal went down when a shot by Timonen from the blue line clipped the stick of Flyers forward Jake Voracek and caromed up into his eye, causing a cut. Staal, who wasn't wearing a visor, squirmed on the ice and held his face before skating off.
"You can feel that it took the life out of the bench a little bit and the whole crowd," Callahan said. "It's a scary moment."
Wayne Simmonds and Voracek both scored power-play goals in the first period for Philadelphia, and Bryzgalov stopped 16 shots.
The Flyers (11-12-1) got to NHL .500 for the first time this season on Saturday, but are back below again with games against Pittsburgh and Boston looming this week.