Zuccarello lifts Rangers past Bruins in OT
BOSTON — With most people expecting Ondrej Pavelec to get the nod, Alain Vigneault didn’t announce his starting goaltender until two hours before Saturday’s game at TD Garden.
In a surprise move, the Rangers coach went right back to Henrik Lundqvist, who had won in New York Friday night, and the decision paid off as Lundqvist made 33 saves to lead New York to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.
“It was a big game and Henrik had been playing really well — just thought it was the right thing to do,” Vigneault said.
“Challenging game. They’re a good team,” Lundqvist said after his 27th career win over the Bruins was secured when Mats Zuccarello scored a power play goal 1:56 into OT. “Two games where I felt there was a lot of pressure at time. I knew this game would be challenging physically, just a short time of recovery, but I saw it as a great challenge for me to make a difference.
“It was fun game to play.”
The win, in their sixth game in nine days, was the Rangers’ seventh straight over their Original Six brothers. It also made Lundqvist 8-0-0 in his last eight back halves of personal back-to-backs, 2-0 this season. He has yielded two goals or fewer in all eight of those games.
He is 27-12-2 against Boston, with the 27 wins matching his high victory total against teams not in his division.
The Bruins, who had erased a two-goal deficit to force overtime, were called for their second too-many-men penalty of the game to set up the winner. This time, they had five on the ice when they were supposed to have three.
“I can’t complain. We’re trying to gain an advantage there,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. And we didn’t.
“The other one was on the power play, we had a forward jump for the wrong guy and we had six guys. It’s hard to complain about it. We were at fault there. We’ll take the blame for that, and unfortunately it’s a lousy way to lose.”
Zuccarello, getting the puck in the right faceoff circle, waited, waited and, with Chris Kreider serving as a screen, fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask for the win, ending Boston’s three-game winning streak.
“I didn’t think we played our best game today,” said Zuccarello, who added “I was probably the worst player out there.”
He was probably talking about a slashing penalty he took in the second period, with the Rangers having pinned the Bruins in their zone for 90 seconds.
The winner brought an eruption from the New York fans in the crowd. They were many and they were loud, often dueling with their local counterparts to ramp up the intensity of the game.
Rask made 25 saves but saw his personal five-game winning streak snapped as Boston fell to 15-10-5.
“We had some chances in overtime, too,” said Cassidy. “We just lost our footing on a couple. It was one of those nights it seemed like we had some chances at the offensive blue line, even in overtime. We just lost control or lost our footing and took away some good chances.”
Despite blowing the lead, the Rangers (18-12-3) improved to 12-0-0 when leading after two periods.
“It was a great job by our whole team,” said captain Ryan McDonagh, when asked about the twin victories in less than 24 hours.
Michael Grabner (his 16th) and J.T. Miller (sixth) scored for the Rangers. Grabner scored when his shot went over the net and bounced back into the crease with Rask knocking it into his own net. Miller scored on a power-play breakaway off a pass from Ryan McDonagh. Brady Sjkei had two assists.
Danton Heinen scored a goal late in the second period to cut New York’s lead in half and Brad Marchand converted a pass from David Pastrnak for a power-play goal at 5:38 of the third period.
Pastrnak has an 11-game point streak, matching his career high, and Marchand has a point in eight straight.
Ryan Spooner, who had missed the last four and 19 of the last 24 games for the Bruins with a groin injury, returned and scored an apparent early goal. But the Rangers challenged and the goal was overturned because of an offside. Spooner then assisted on Marchand’s tying goal.
NOTES: With LW Ryan Spooner back for Boston, struggling rookie Anders Bjork was a healthy scratch. ... Rangers coach Alain Vigneault notched his 200th win behind the New York bench Friday night. ... Bruins C Patrice Bergeron’s second goal Thursday was the 265th of his career, moving him past Bobby Orr into eighth place on the team’s all-time goals list, 11 behind Wayne Cashman. ... New York C Mika Zibanejad missed his ninth straight game with a concussion but is nearing a return. ... The Bruins host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night while the Anaheim Ducks visit the Rangers on Tuesday. ... Most of the Bruins arrived at TD Garden wearing festive Christmas garb.