The Rangers had scored 45 goals in February and averaged 4.09 goals per game. That lifted them to second in the NHL with 3.14 per game.
All things must pass.
Rick Nash scored eight of those February goals, and has 37 overall. He was scratched with neck spasms Tuesday night and is day-to-day. But Nash's sub for the evening, 22-year-old Kevin Hayes, came through, scoring the game's only goal early in the third period as Cam Talbot shut out the Flames, 1-0, at Madison Square Garden.
Hayes was moved from third- line center to Nash's spot on a line with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, and the Boston College product delivered.
After two scoreless periods, Brassard grabbed a bouncing puck from Dennis Wideman above the left circle and skated to the middle. Brassard looked to his right and found Hayes, who beat Karri Ramo at 3:00 of the third. It was Hayes' 12th goal and Brassard's team-leading 35th assist, a career high.
Talbot, starting his 10th game out of 11 for the injured Henrik Lundqvist, made 21 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and seventh of his career. The Rangers held on after Ramo was pulled for an extra attacker in the final 1:30.
Hayes, who had five goals and 10 points in his previous 12 games, also opened Sunday night's win over the Blue Jackets with a first-period goal. Hayes was in Boston Monday night to watch the Beanpot tournament final between Boston University and Northeastern. Accompanying him were teammate Chris Kreider and former Eagles teammate Johnny Gaudreau, who is starring as a rookie for the Flames.
The Rangers had an opportunity to extend the lead midway through the third on their second power play, with Sean Monahan off for interference on Zuccarello. At 11:51, Wideman saved a goal, clearing Hayes' shot from the goal line behind Ramo.
Nonetheless, without Nash, the Blueshirts struggled offensively. Through 40 minutes, the Rangers had 19 shots on Ramo, and the Flames only 15 on Talbot.
The Islanders defeated the Coyotes to give them 82 points, two ahead of the Rangers (37-16-6), who have three games in hand on the leaders of the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers host Arizona tomorrow night.
Early in the first period, Ramo stopped Zuccarello and Kreider on kick saves. After Curtis Glencross went off for a hook at 1:35, Ramo robbed J.T. Miller, diving to his left to glove his shot after Hayes' deflection off the right post. Miller was stunned by the stop.
With Kreider posted in front of the net, replacing Nash, the power play had some looks but dropped to 1-for-18.
The Flames settled in and tilted the ice after their first shot, from Wideman at the point at 7:37, which evened a 6-0 deficit in shots to 6-6. The Rangers, who were overpassing, had no shots on Ramo for 9:17. Talbot kicked away T.J. Brodie's swift try, then stopped Gaudreau's backhander on a break-in with his left pad.
The Flames finished with a flurry in the final minute but couldn't beat Talbot.