The Rangers stopped the bleeding last night. The tourniquet was supplied by an all-around defensive effort, timely goals and a shutout from backup goaltender Antti Raanta in his New York debut.
After three losses, the 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks was much-needed for a team that was trying to find its game as well as 60 minutes of crispness, chemistry and commitment.
"It's urgency," said Rick Nash, still without a goal on the season, but a force, with speed, eight shot attempts and an assist. "Good teams don't let these things slide, they stop them right away. I believe we're a good team."
Give credit to Raanta, who hadn't played since Sept. 28, the fifth preseason game, and made 22 saves subbing for Henrik Lundqvist in his first appearance since being acquired from Chicago at the NHL draft in a trade to replace Cam Talbot, who was shipped to Edmonton.
"It's nice to get this kind of start," said Raanta, 26, a Finnish goaltender who had played 39 NHL games for the Blackhawks. "I knew what Cam Talbot meant here last year, and everybody's compared me to him, everybody's always expecting that you have to be better than the last one was."
But Raanta said he put those thoughts aside. "All I was thinking today was to win. I think everybody showed up and that helped me a lot . . . How everybody was blocking shots and handling the puck in our own zone, it was nice to see."
The season-high 21 blocks were among the marks set against a Sharks club that was 4-1 and whose goaltender, Martin Jones, had allowed just two goals in four starts.
Marc Staal delivered the opening goal on a long wrister from the point, his first, and an assist, the 100th of his career.
The Rangers had scored just two goals in their previous three games.
Mats Zuccarello scored his fourth goal, 26 seconds into a power play in the second period that forged a 2-0 lead at 9:28. Jesper Fast, who assisted on Staal's goal and set screens, netted his first on a breakaway at 3:47 of the third and Viktor Stalberg, like Raanta, a new face on the Rangers, scored his first as a Blueshirt at 16:44 of the third.
"Everyone in the room knew that the level we were playing at wasn't acceptable," said Staal, who played a terrific 18:10. "We [the defensemen] weren't good enough. I thought we were better tonight getting pucks to the net."
That all supported the fourth career shutout for Raanta, the second Finnish goaltender to play for the team -- the first was Jussi Markkanen in 2003-04. He stopped all nine shots he faced in the first period and settled in.
"He's been working very hard and I know he's been waiting for this opportunity," coach Alain Vigneault said. "You could feel this morning that he wasn't nervous. He was looking forward to the challenge. He was upbeat."
In the end, Raanta heard the Garden chant his name, and he was named the first star, not a bad beginning for a backup.
The chant, Raanta said with a grin, "wasn't as strong as for Hank. But the feeling we got when we scored a goal and everybody is shouting, I got some extra energy from that."