NEW YORK — Before they ever skated a shift together, Alex Tuch, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty were bestowed a nickname.
The Golden Knights’ “All-American Line” finally took the ice Sunday, and it was a memorable debut.
Tuch netted the winner off an assist from Stastny at 2:11 of overtime to give the Knights a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought we felt good right away,” Tuch said. “We had a good amount of offensive chances there. We’ve got to clean it up a little bit maybe defensively. But I thought overall our line had a pretty good game, and honestly overall, I thought our team had a really good game.”
Reilly Smith and William Carrier also scored for the Knights, who rebounded from a disappointing 5-4 overtime loss at New Jersey on Friday with one of their best efforts on the road so far.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made his 13th consecutive start and finished with 27 saves to pick up his league-leading 19th victory.
The Knights finished with an 82-52 advantage in shot attempts, and if not for the heroics of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (37 saves), the score wouldn’t have been nearly as close.
The Knights have five points from the first three games of their eastern road trip that finishes Monday at Columbus.
“I thought it was a great response by everybody, myself included,” Fleury said. “Nobody was happy about that last loss. From start to finish, we played a good game and we deserved that win.”
Tuch missed the first eight games of the season with a lower-body injury, and Stastny was sidelined for 30 games with a knee injury before returning Friday.
Pacioretty sat out Friday’s game at New Jersey, which delayed the line’s debut.
The trio accounted for two of the Knights’ four goals against the Rangers and finished with a combined five points.
“I don’t really have crazy expectations because I just know every game is going to get better and better,” Stastny said. “We made a couple mistakes, but I think once we talked about it and kind of corrected it, then I think we started playing more free and supporting each other and getting the puck more.”
Tuch, a native of Syracuse, New York, said he had 30 to 40 family members and friends at the game.
He moved into a tie for second in the league with his fifth game-winning goal when he collected a loose puck in his own zone and finished off a 2-on-1 with Stastny. Tuch and four other players are one behind Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog in game winners.
“I grew up with the Rangers, got coached by (Mark) Messier a little bit,” Tuch said. “I know what Madison Square Garden is. I know what it means to this city and everything, so it’s pretty cool … just to score a goal in this building.”
Stastny, who was born in Quebec City, Quebec, but carries dual citizenship and plays internationally for Team USA, tallied his first points with the Knights after signing as a free agent in July.
Stastny gave the Knights a 2-1 lead at 6:09 of the second period when Pacioretty (New Canaan, Connecticut) collected his own rebound and slid a nifty pass to Stastny at the back post for the easy tap-in.
“I think it was a good bounce-back after what happened against New Jersey,” Stastny said. “Whatever happened, we didn’t really let it bother us. We just kind of kept playing our way. We stuck with it and found a way to get two points.”
1. King Henrik. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stole one point for his team with several spectacular saves. His best moment came midway through the first period when he turned away William Karlsson’s initial attempt and made a diving stop with his paddle on Karlsson’s rebound.
2. New look. The Knights made significant changes to their lineup, as Jon Merrill played his first game since Nov. 16 and Max Pacioretty returned after a one-game absence. Deryk Engelland and Ryan Reaves were scratched, and coach Gerard Gallant declined to comment on whether either is nursing an injury.
3. Goofy goal. Reilly Smith scored the Knights’ first goal when Colin Miller’s drive from the blue line sailed over the net, hit the glass and bounced back into the crease. Smith poked it through a maze of legs for his seventh goal and 17th point in the past 15 games (four goals, 13 assists).