NEW YORK (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist and Brady Skjei sat inside the Rangers’ dressing room after shellacking the Flyers, and surprisingly enough, their conversation was all about defense.
Even after Rick Nash scored twice in New York’s 5-1 win over Philadelphia, the Rangers were most pleased by what happened in their own end.
“We both said that was our best collective defensive game in a long time, and we end up scoring five goals,” Skjei said.
Jordan Weal put Philadelphia up 1-0 before Nash, J.T. Miller, Paul Carey and Michael Grabner combined to make it 5-1 by the end of the second period. Nash had the first and last goal for the Rangers.
“That’s a testament to us playing good structurally,” Skjei said. “Good team defense first leads to good looks offensively. It was a good game all around.”
New York snapped a three-game skid and improved to 23-17-5. Lundqvist made 25 saves for his 20th win of the season and 425th career victory. Lundqvist became the first goaltender in league history to win at least 20 games in each of his first 13 seasons.
Philadelphia dropped to 20-16-8 with its first loss in four games. Brian Elliott gave up five goals on 21 shots before being replaced by Michal Neuvirth in the third period. Neuvirth stopped eight shots.
“We weren’t competitive enough,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said.
Entering their first meeting of the season, New York and Philadelphia were on significantly different trajectories. The Flyers had won four straight by an aggregate 21-11 margin, while the Rangers had scored two or fewer goals in eight of their last 10 games.
Coupled with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to New Jersey, the Rangers passed Pittsburgh and the Islanders for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have a game in hand on the Islanders. Pittsburgh, which was off, now holds the second wild card.
Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead 2:06 into the game after Weal, positioned between Lundqvist, the right post and Kevin Shattenkirk, deftly redirected Radko Gudas’ drive.
Nash tied it 4:24 later with his 10th of the season and his first since Dec. 15. Pavel Buchnevich set up Nash for the breakaway goal with a stretch pass between Gudas and Brandon Manning, and New York’s veteran right wing snapped a shot past Elliott.
“It’s what I’m supposed to do,” Nash said.
New York’s sputtering power play came through 16:50 into the period when Miller tipped Ryan McDonagh’s slap shot past Elliott. New York entered 3 for 31 on the man advantage dating to Dec. 19, but finished 1 for 2 against the Flyers.
The Rangers ended the opening period on Carey’s short-handed semi-breakaway with 9.4 seconds remaining.
The goal was Carey’s sixth of the season.
Grabner increased the lead to 4-1 with an unassisted goal at 10:48 of the second after stripping Jakub Voracek at the Philadelphia blueline. Nash’s second of the game with 2:32 left in the period pushed the lead to 5-1.
Predators 1, Golden Knights 0
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Juuse Saros made 43 saves, Kevin Fiala scored eight minutes into the third period and the Nashville Predators beat the Vegas Golden Knights.
Nashville played its first game in a week and has won three straight. The shutout was the third of the season for Saros and the fourth of his career.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for the Golden Knights, who have lost two in a row.
Saros was superb, especially against Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault, who peppered 10 shots on the Finnish netminder but was unable to get one by him.
Blues 2, Maple Leafs 1, OT
TORONTO — Alexander Steen tied it with 57 seconds left and Vince Dunn scored 1:43 into overtime, lifting St. Louis over Toronto.
Connor Brown put Toronto ahead on a short-handed breakaway midway through the third period, but Steen scored with goalie Carter Hutton pulled for an extra attacker by backhanding Alex Pieterangelo’s rebound past Frederik Andersen.
Dunn snapped a low shot past Andersen after choosing to keep the puck on a 2-on-1.
Sharks 3, Coyotes 2, SO
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Joe Pavelski scored the only goal of the shootout to lift San Jose over Arizona.
Pavelski scored on San Jose’s first attempt, and Sharks goalie Aaron Dell was perfect through three rounds in his first NHL shootout. Dell also had 30 saves.
Joe Thornton and Mikkel Boedker had regulation goals for San Jose.
Antti Raanta had 20 saves for Arizona. Brad Richardson had a goal and assist, but the Coyotes lost their fourth straight game and have dropped 17 of 21.
Stars 4, Red Wings 2
DETROIT — Jason Spezza responded to being benched by scoring two tiebreaking goals on power plays, helping Dallas beat Detroit.
Spezza scored on a lunging one-timer below the left circle with 5:52 left in the second period. His first goal came on a redirected shot midway through the first.
The 33-year-old forward was a healthy scratch Monday when Dallas won at Boston in overtime. He bounced back by ending his 14-game goal drought, scoring twice in a game for the first time since March 12, 2016. Spezza scored 33 goals just two years ago and has 323 career goals.
Dallas’ Radek Faksa and Martin Hanzal also scored.
Devils 4, Islanders 1
NEW YORK — Damon Severson scored twice 1:26 apart in New Jersey’s three-goal second period, and the Devils ended a six-game skid.
Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall also scored for New Jersey, which was 0-3-3 since beating Detroit at home on Dec. 27. Keith Kinkaid, getting the start after Cory Schneider was a late scratch due to illness, stopped 25 shots.
Anders Lee scored and Jaroslav Halak made 38 saves as the Islanders snapped a three-game winning streak that started with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Devils here on Jan. 7.