It took a while, but eventually something clicked.

The Rangers had to deal with assimilating to new coach Alain Vigneault to start this year, and that was the easy excuse — not used by the team — for their horrible defensive start. They gave up 25 goals in the first five games, and, oh, boy, did things look disjointed.

But, in their past five games, they have given up just eight goals, and it’s no coincidence they won three of the past four going into Saturday night’s game against the Hurricanes at the Garden.

“I think it’s back to what we’re used to playing, especially as a ‘D’ group,” Marc Staal said after Friday’s practice, his team now back to a respectable 5-7-0. “Through the first couple weeks, we were kind of — everyone all over the place. It just wasn’t clicking for us.”

Most everyone on the team denied that Vigneault’s new system, and its perceived difference from former coach John Tortorella’s, was the reason for the confusion. Whether that was the truth matters little now, as reads and decisions that were made with hesitation in the past have started to become instinctual.
“They’re just playing better,” Vigneault said of his defensemen. “For whatever reason, they were just off a little bit. That’s going to happen in an 82-game schedule. But they’re just playing better.

“They’re moving the puck when they’re supposed to move it. They’re skating it when they’re supposed to be skating it. They’re just finding their game right now.”

There was an especially appreciative Henrik Lundqvist in Thursday’s 2-0 home win over the putrid Sabres, as the goalie notched his second shutout of the season. As has been dissected ad nauseum to start the year, the Rangers would like to score more, still going into Friday night’s play ranked 29th of 30 teams with a 1.67 goals per game average.