NEW YORK – After a sluggish first 40 minutes, the Rangers turned it on in the third period, stealing what seemed to be an unlikely 2-1 victory over the Bruins.
The opening goal came a little more than half way through, 9:04 of the 2nd period to be exact, when Chris Kreider, back in the line-up after missing two games with a hand injury) tried to flip the puck to himself right by the red line and turned it over to Ryan Spooner. He fed Jimmy Hayes, who beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a wrist shot from above the circles.
The period ended with a rain of boos coming down from the Garden faithful, with the Rangers trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes.
The Rangers went down to five defensemen after Dan Girardi suffered a laceration on his hand and did not return, but other key guys stepped up.
“We need big guys to make big plays and I think Mac [Ryan McDonagh] made a big one considering we were down to five defensemen”, coach Alain Vigneault said.
Entering the contest, the Rangers and Bruins had 23 of their previous 31 regular season games decided by one goal, dating back to March 24, 2007.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was confidant heading into the third period. “After what happened last game, we knew we could come back,” he said.
The Rangers proved Lundqvist right as they had extra jump in their game in the final twenty minutes.
Before fans could get back to their seats for the start of the third period, Mats Zuccarello made a great little pass to give Derick Brassard a slam-dunk to tie the game at 1.
The Bruins and Rangers traded chances throughout the period.
The game winner came with 1:42 left in regulation, as Jesper Fast was able to deflect a Keith Yandle point shot past Tuukka Rask.
Fast, who Vigneault calls “Quickie,” played just over 13 minutes in the game and was pleased to be reunited with Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller.
“I’ve had some good games with them over the past couple of weeks,” Fast said. “I feel like I’ve been going pretty well so of course it’s a great opportunity to play with (them).”
For the first time this season, the Rangers were able to win after going into the third period trailing. They had been 0-11-2 when trailing after two periods.
“After what happened last game, that was extremely tough to accept we lost that one because we did a lot of good things in the third period especially,” Lundqvist said. “The way we came back today, we played a really solid game and turned it up again in the third which is a really good sign that we have that determination and won’t give up.”
“Those dying seconds there, after what happened with Washington, it’s a good sign to get back to protecting the house there and getting that one timely save there from Henrik which was clutch,” said McDonagh.
“It’s been going on for more than two games, and I’ve been saying that,” Vigneault said. “Our game is on the upswing.”
After the game, Vigneault said he didn’t think Girardi’s hand was broken, but the team will know more in the coming days.
Keith Yandle extended his personal point-scoring street against the Bruins to six games. He now has one goal and two assists in his last three contests overall.
Tanner Glass led all skaters with a season-high 10 hits.
Vigneault coached his 1,012th regular season as an NHL head coach, tying Terry Murray for 20th place all-time on the NHL’s games coached list.
Henrik Lundqvist became the first goalie in New York Rangers history to make 20,000 career regular season and playoff saves combined.