DALLAS (AP) - Mika Zibanejad remains on a roll - and the New York Rangers hope Kaapo Kakko is just getting started.
Zibanejad got his 10th goal in five games to give him 40 for the season, Kakko broke out of a long scoring slump and fellow rookie Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves as New York beat the skidding Dallas Stars 4-2 on Tuesday night.
It was Zibanejad’s 40th goal in only 56 games this season after missing time with an injury. He has scored in five straight games, including a five-goal outburst last week against Washington.
“It’s so much fun to watch a player grow,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “I said to him the day after his five-goal game, ‘I’m really tired of talking about you, but if you keep scoring, I’ll talk about you until I’m blue in the face.’”
Kakko scored twice in the second period for his first goals in a month.
“I think about it sometimes,” he said. “It’s hard. We played better, I played better, and it was a good win.”
The 19-year-old Kakko, picked second overall in last year’s draft, got his first goals in 15 games to give him 10 this season. Quinn said he doesn’t want Kakko trying to play defense at the expense of his offense.
“We want him to score,” the coach explained.
Adam Fox had an early goal as New York built a 4-0 cushion and won for the 10th time in its last 11 road games. The Rangers, who had lost four of five overall, remained three points out of a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference wild-card race.
Shesterkin improved to 10-2 in 12 NHL games, bouncing back from a disappointing home loss to last-place New Jersey on Saturday in his first game back from an upper-body injury sustained in a car accident.
“He played really well tonight and made the saves he needed to make,” Quinn said. “I liked our goaltending, I liked the defensemen and I liked our forwards tonight.”
Fox and Zibanejad each had a goal and an assist.
Roope Hintz had a power-play goal and Andrew Cogliano also scored in the third period - the first goals in three games for a Dallas team that dropped to 0-4-2 in its past six. Miro Heiskanen assisted on both.
Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots for the Stars.
Fox scored on the Rangers’ first shot 19 seconds into the game. The defenseman took a pass from Artemi Panarin in the slot and sent the puck into the left side of the net.
Zibanejad increased the lead to 2-0 at 10:12 of the first period. Brendan Lemieux skated left of the net and passed from behind the goal line to Zibanejad for a snap shot that went over Bishop’s left shoulder.
Shesterkin stopped a breakaway by Mattias Janmark and a shot from Blake Comeau on an odd-man rush in the first.
New York extended its lead in the second period.
Jesper Fast sent a backhand pass to Brett Howden in the left circle and he passed to Kakko in the slot for a snap shot at 7:03. On Kakko’s second goal, he took a loose puck at the left of the net, skated around a fallen Bishop and backhanded the puck across the goal line.
“We’re still in a playoff spot and we can dig ourselves out of this. But if we don’t prepare ourselves properly day of a game, it’s not going to work,” Dallas interim coach Rick Bowness said. “If we’re not prepared to work and play the right way and play from our net out, then we’re going to be embarrassed like we were for 40 minutes tonight.”
The Stars finally scored after a drought of 175:49 when Hintz put a snap shot into the upper right corner from low in the slot at 1:23 of the third. Cogliano put in the rebound of a shot by Heiskanen at 11:52.
NOTES: Zibanejad has 12 points in his last five games to tie his career high with 74. He had a six-game goal streak between Feb. 19 and 27. … The entire Dallas team has only nine goals in the last five games. … Cogliano scored for the first time in 35 games.
Rangers: Go back-to-back on Wednesday at Colorado in the second stop on a three-game trip.
Stars: Play the third in a four-game homestand Thursday against Florida.
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