Benoit Pouliot didn’t have a banner start to 2013-14 but, on Friday night, he showed his game was on the rise.
Pouliot registered his first multi-goal game of the season — and first in a Rangers jersey — as New York went into the Olympic break on a high, defeating Pittsburgh 4-3 in a shootout at Consol Energy Center.
Pouliot opened the scoring just 1:04 into the game, then gave the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead midway through the third period, his 11th goal of the year. But Pittsburgh’s James Neal scored with less than three minutes remaining — his 20th of the season — to send it to the extra frame, where both teams went scoreless and headed to the shootout.
Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards scored in the skills competition for New York, while Evgeni Malkin replied for the Penguins.
The real story on the night, though, was Pouliot, who came to the Rangers this summer on a one-year, $1.3 million deal but has been a disappointment at times, especially early on. The 27-year-old had his lack of consistency called out by head coach Alain Vigneault and was parked as a healthy scratch in December after going 18 games without a goal.
But since then, the former fourth overall pick (2005 NHL Entry Draft) has shown signs of life.
Pouliot responded to the scratch with a seven-game point streak and had nine points in 12 games during the month of December, then notched seven more in 15 games over January. Tonight was probably his finest game of the season — with the two markers, he how has 11 goals and 23 points and appears primed to beat his career-high of 32 points, set with the Bruins during the 2011-12 campaign.