NEW YORK — Their youth and a new-look fourth line helped the New York Rangers get a needed win.
Pavel Buchnevich scored twice and added an assist, rookie Boo Nieves had three assists and the Rangers beat the winless Arizona Coyotes 5-2 Thursday night.
Michael Grabner had two goals, Chris Kreider also scored and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 27 shots to help New York get just its third victory of the season in the finale of a season-high six-game homestand.
“I think we just meshed really well — me, Grabner and Buchnevich,” said Nieves, who was called up from Hartford of the AHL on Tuesday. “Grabner is a really fast player like me so it’s easy to keep up with him. A guy like Buchnevich can put the puck just about anywhere. They made my transition here pretty easy.”
New York shook up its line combinations and played with a traditional lineup consisting of 12 forwards and six defensemen for the first time in a week. It helped the Rangers beat Arizona for the eighth straight time, dating back to March 24, 2014.
“I think that permits us to play with a higher pace and more energy,” Vigneault said after the game about his lineup decision. “We can roll those four lines, I think that’s what Boo’s line helped us do tonight by playing well and being efficient on the ice.”
Anthony Duclair and Clayton Keller scored, and Adin Hill made 24 saves as the Coyotes fell to 0-9-1. Arizona is just one away from tying the 1943-44 Rangers as the only teams in NHL history to open the season with 11 losses.
The Coyotes’ latest defeat spoiled the return of former Rangers star Derek Stepan to Madison Square Garden for the first time since he was traded to Arizona along with goalie Antti Raanta in the offseason.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my career,” Stepan said of the matchup against his former team which included a first-period video tribute. “I thought it took me a period and a half to get going. I was just mentally not sharp. It was hard to stay focused. I’m glad it’s over with and I can move on. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t expect it to be easy.”
Arizona trailed 2-0 after one period before Duclair got a loose puck in front of the net and beat Pavelec for his third of the season at 5:13 of the second.
“Nobody here wants to lose. Everybody wants to win,” Keller said. “We have to continue to stay positive. Hopefully things will turn around here. Every young team goes through this. We just have to stay positive.”
The Rangers regained their two-goal lead just 46 seconds later as Nieves, called up from Hartford of the AHL on Tuesday, set up Grabner for his second assist of the game.
After Hill turned the puck over, Buchnevich took advantage by scoring into the open net for his first career multi-goal game and putting the Rangers up 4-1. Nieves got his third assist on the play.
“He’s got a real good shot and a good release,” Vigneault said of Buchnevich. “We want him to be using his skill but we want him to be strong on the puck battles so that he could keep the puck and then make plays.”
Keller extended his point streak to four-games with a power-play goal at 3:52 of the third to pull the Coyotes within two again. Keller leads all NHL rookies with seven goals this season.
Grabner sealed the win with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Kreider opened the scoring at 8:01 of the first after he buried a beautiful drop pass from Mats Zuccarello.
With 4:03 remaining in the opening period, Buchnevich fired a long-distance wrist shot off the post and in to give New York a two-goal advantage. Nieves got his earned his first career NHL point on the play.
Stepan played the first seven seasons of his career in New York and skated in 515 contests with the Rangers. Raanta did not play due to a lower-body injury.
“He’s a good friend,” Zuccarello said of Stepan. “Obviously, you wish he was here as a friend and a player but it’s a part of the game. It’s weird to see him in the other jersey.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault got his 617th career victory, tying Jacques Lemaire for 13th place on NHL’s all-time wins list.
NOTES: Rick Nash skated in his 1,000th career NHL game, becoming the 312th player in NHL history to reach the milestone. … Pavelec became the third Czech-born goaltender to make 10,000 career saves (Dominik Hasek and Tomas Vokoun). … Marc Staal skated in his 700th career NHL game. … The Rangers scratched F Paul Carey and D Steven Kampfer. … Arizona scratched D Kevin Connauton and F Christian Fischer. … Arizona F Brendan Perlini returned after missing the previous six games with an upper-body injury.
Coyotes: At New Jersey on Saturday.
Rangers: At Montreal on Saturday.