Rangers knock off Canucks in shootout
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers seem to have discovered an unconventional blueprint for victory lately -- get off to a slow start, lean on Henrik Lundqvist and rally late.
It worked against Sunday afternoon, as the Rangers fell behind 2-0 but earned a 4-3 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers (13-9-2) have won four straight despite getting off to a putrid starts the past two games. Rough first periods have been common at home this season, although the Rangers have persevered and won eight straight at MSG.
Loui Eriksson and Jake Virtanen gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead that lasted until the final minutes of the second period, when Jesper Fast began a stretch of three goals on three shots for the Rangers.
Michael Grabner tied the game at 2 just 19 seconds into the third period and, when Sam Gagner restored the Canucks’ one-goal lead 41 seconds later, Jimmy Vesey answered at5:05 with a goal off a terrific setup from Rick Nash.
The resiliency continued in the shootout, as Kevin Shattenkirk and Nash scored do-or-die goals to set the stage for Vesey’s winner in the seventh round.
“We have to feel good about what we’ve been doing here the past four weeks,” said Lundqvist, who made 29 saves in regulation but wasn’t tested in overtime. “Our record (10-3 since Oct. 26) is really good, but this league is so competitive that if you start to think you’re good, you have to earn it every night and prepare a certain way and put in the effort all the time to get any points. We had a tough time but we got it done with a really strong third.”
“I thought the third period was our best,” Nash said. “It was a little bit of a slow start. We have to figure out our first periods in the next few days. Good teams find a way to win the games that they don’t play their best and I thought we did that.”
The Canucks outshot the Rangers 11-4 in the first period and were 2:20 away from taking a two-goal lead to the second intermission. But Fast’s redirection of a Nick Holden shot that was tipped before it got to Fast near the crease gave the Rangers a much-needed boost heading to the third period.
“It helped a lot,” Shattenkirk said. “We knew going into the third period knowing that you have a one-goal deficit instead of a two-goal deficit is a big momentum shift for you and a mindset change. I think the way we fought back after their third one was an even better response.”
The Canucks (11-10-3) have been fading in November; they lost two straight, four of six and six of nine and are 5-6-2 since Oct. 26.
“Good teams are going to push in the third,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “They pushed. We still had a decent period. We outshot them, had some chances, responded right away with a goal and it was a good period. I don’t think there was a huge tide change.”
The fireworks began when Grabner scored from a deep angle along the wing with goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who stopped just 17 shots, dropping to his knees early. Gagner put the Canucks back in front less than a minute later, but that goal seemed to give the Rangers life.
“They had two shifts toward the end of the second period that gave them some momentum, and they came out and got a quick one in the third,” Eriksson said. “We have to find ways to win these games when you’re up a couple goals.”
The Rangers have played a league-high 16 home games and will play two more at MSG this week. The schedule will eventually become more unfavorable but for now, they are taking advantage of home ice.
“We need to have a good feeling,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “And that’s what we have right now in our building.”
NOTES: Canucks LW Daniel Sedin was held without a point. He is two points shy of 1,000 for his career. ... Canucks C Brandon Sutter (undisclosed) did not play after suffering an injury Friday. He may not return during the Canucks’ road trip, which ends Thursday. ... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh (abdomen) missed his third straight game. ... Rangers C David Desharnais returned to the lineup after a three-game absence as a healthy scratch. ... Rangers C Boo Nieves (hip) did not play.