Rangers power past Bruins for fifth straight win
NEW YORK — A little more than a week ago, the New York Rangers were down two goals with 20 minutes remaining and staring potentially at their 10th loss in 13 games. Who knows what possible changes would have followed.
The Rangers somehow found a way to rally for that victory and now are the hottest team in the NHL.
Jimmy Vesey scored twice and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as the Rangers held off the Boston Bruins for a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
The win was the Rangers’ fifth in a row, the longest active streak in the league.
“We are confident,” New York defenseman Marc Staal said. “We are starting to win some games. We know how close it can go the other way, and we’ve been working hard all year to get us in position to win these types of hockey games.
“We don’t take it for granted, absolutely not. We have to keep on working and keep grabbing points when we are on a roll like this.”
The Rangers (8-7-2) find themselves in a wild-card spot in early November, a big leap from when they were 2-6-2 and mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
One big reason for the surge is Pavel Buchnevich, who gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead midway through the first period with his seventh goal of the season. He has three goals and six points in the past five games, including an assist on Vesey’s first goal.
David Pastrnak answered quickly for the Bruins (6-5-3) with his ninth of the season 21 seconds after Buchnevich scored.
Vesey’s two goals 29 seconds apart off net-mouth scrambles later in the first period gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.
“I think we have to be careful,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said in regards to Vesey getting better. “Maybe he wasn’t finishing a lot (Vesey has four goals this season), but Jimmy was working real hard, and like you saw tonight early on, before he scored the goals, he made a couple real strong plays along the wall in our end that permitted us to get the puck out.
“There’s more than just finishing — there’s a complete 200-foot game and tonight, he was able to finish on a couple of those, and he went to the tough areas.”
So did Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron, who swept home a rebound early in the third period to cut the deficit to a goal, but the Bruins could not find the tying goal despite earning a power play later in the final period.
Rick Nash’s empty-net goal with eight seconds left sealed New York’s win.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy lamented his team’s slow start and inability to clear the area in front of goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 29 saves, on Vesey’s goals.
“They were more competitive in front of the net than we were for the first half of the game,” Cassidy said. “Then we decided to be competitive, and you see what happens. That’s what bothered me — they were much more competitive in that area than we were.”
“They created some havoc out there and got rewarded with a couple goals,” Rask said, who conceded the first goal on which Buchnevich went around defenseman Zdeno Chara and chipped the puck over Rask was his fault. “That first goal was my bad; I kind of lost my post. I guess you have to weather the storm a little bit when you go down by one.”
The slow starts and sloppy play that plagued the Rangers appear to have vanished. New York is climbing the standings, and with six of the next nine games at home, the schedule is allowing the Rangers to build momentum.
“We set the tone in the first period,” Lundqvist said. “After they tie the game, we raise it to another level and guys made some really big plays for us. The things that didn’t go our way in the first eight, nine games of the season, I feel like now we are cashing in on that.
“There’s no secret it’s so much more fun to be at the rink, go to practice, travel when you are winning and guys are smiling. We’re going to continue to smile hopefully and get more wins.”
NOTES: Bruins LW Brad Marchand missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Other key Bruins out of the lineup were C David Backes (diverticulitis), C Ryan Spooner (groin) and C David Krejci (upper body). ... Zdeno Chara played his 834th career game for Boston, moving into fourth-place all-time among defensemen on the Bruins’ games played list. ... Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello played his 400th career regular-season game. ... Rangers D Brendan Smith and C Boo Nieves were healthy scratches.