There was 14:41 remaining in the third period Saturday night in Raleigh, N.C., with the Rangers holding a 3-0 lead over the Hurricanes, when Brad Richards found himself standing alone at the right post and the puck sliding toward him. Richards wound up, one-timed it, and backup goalie Justin Peters — who had 14 career wins and came in cold to the start the third — robbed Richards with a fantastic glove save.

It was a play that belied Richards’ struggles this year, but it was another chance in what has been an increased stream of them over the past two weeks or so.

“Richie has worked hard at the other parts of his game,” said coach John Tortorella, whose team will play the fifth-place Maple Leafs tonight in Toronto at the beginning of a home-and-home that concludes Wednesday in the Garden. “The offense is coming.”

Earlier in the game, Richards had done what he does best — facilitate a scoring opportunity. After a chippy and scoreless first period, Richards chased down a puck on the power play and drew three Hurricanes’ defenders toward him, below the goal line. Quickly, with little hesitation, he backhanded a pass to a wide-open Derek Stepan, who netted it and got that all-important first goal.

“We don’t bury that, it stays 0-0 and who knows where it goes?” Richards said. “Opportunistic, I guess, is the word, right? We’ll take it.”

What has been opportunistic is Richards taking advantage of his new linemates, Mats Zuccarello and Ryane Clowe. Having never really found a rhythm with Marian Gaborik over a year-and-a-half stretch, Richards now gets to skate with two players who are a little more low-maintenance and open up the ice to take advantage of his world-class vision.

“I think Zuke and Ryane helped me too,” Richards said. “It’s a lot simpler. I think Zuke is seeing the ice and I think Clowey opens up some ice for me, and I can play off him, too.”