Rangers send Canes to fifth straight loss, 5-1

calexander@newsobserver.comNovember 2, 2013 

— One of the big story lines before the game was the Staal brothers’ reunion.

For the first time in their NHL careers, Eric and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes were facing brother Marc Staal, a defenseman for the New York Rangers. Playing in the same game was something they anticipated last season, but an eye injury to Marc Staal prevented it.

Once the game started Saturday, a bigger storyline became Derek Stepan notching a hat trick and Carl Hagelin scoring twice, Henrik Lundqvist being strong in net and the Rangers winning 5-1 at Madison Square Garden.

Stepan’s hat trick was the second of his career. Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider each had three assists for the Rangers, who were averaging a meager 1.7 goals a game.

Hagelin scored on a backhand beauty in the first period for a 1-0 lead, lifting the Rangers (6-7-0) out of some early lethargy. The Canes, playing the night after a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay, weren’t lacking for energy.

“I thought we came with probably our (best) first period this year,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “I thought our guys came ready to play.

“We’re a bit of a fragile team giving up that first goal. That seems to be a pattern. It kind of pushes you back on your heels.”

In the second, Hagelin bounced out of the penalty box and zipped in to score again.

Justin Peters, again starting in net for the Canes, didn’t react well on either shot. The Canes again were playing from behind and on their way to a fifth straight loss.

Defenseman Andrej Sekera gave the Hurricanes (4-7-3) some hope with a power-play score with 36 seconds left in the second period. Sekera’s shot from the left point appeared to glance off the Rangers’ Anton Stralman.

It was the Canes’ first goal since Nathan Gerbe’s power-play score late in the first period against Pittsburgh on Monday. Carolina was blanked Friday by Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.

Lundqvist, who shut out the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 in the Rangers’ last game, made several high-quality saves in the third. His glove save on a Ryan Murphy slapshot had Rangers fans howling.

“That was a big goal (by Sekera) and we came out ready to go in the third,” Muller said. “We pushed but we didn’t get the timely saves.”

Hagelin’s second goal came after he was called for a hooking penalty in the second. Coming out of the penalty box, Hagelin was all alone.

Stepan also had a power-play score for the Rangers in the second for a 3-0 lead. That came after the Canes killed off a Murphy clipping penalty only to have Manny Malhotra called for goaltender interference.

Stepan scored twice in the third to break it open and send hats sailing onto the Garden ice.

The three Staals weren’t on the ice to begin the game. But Muller made a line change and put Eric at left wing and Jordan at center with Alexander Semin on the right side, so Marc Staal soon was poke-checking and battling both.

“I’m just happy Marc’s back and playing,” Eric Staal said before the game. “He had good summer of training. He’s getting back to the level he was at before. It’s going to take a little time, but just the fact he’s back out there and playing and being able to compete is exciting.”

Marc Staal told New York reporters he was used to facing one brother, but not two in the same game. He played against Jordan 26 times when Jordan was with the Penguins, and battled Eric 18 times.

In April, the Canes called up the youngest Staal brother, Jared, from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL before the Rangers game at PNC Arena. Eric, Jordan and Jared started on the same line but Marc was watching from the press level, sidelined with the eye injury.

“It would have been pretty special if we all four had played that night,” Eric said.

The Canes made one lineup change fore Saturday’s game, activating defenseman Brett Bellemore off injured reserve and inserting him for Tim Gleason. Muller said Gleason has an upper-body injury.

“We’ve got to stay on the program,” Muller said. “It’s not going in but we had enough chances to score,” Muller said. “It’s not easy but we have to stay with it.”

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