It’s all falling into place for the Blueshirts. They won their third in a row to move into a tie for third place with idle Columbus in the crowded Metro Division. Following a impressive weekend sweep over Los Angeles and Boston, the Rangers got big contributions from the fourth line and Henrik Lundqvist in a resounding 4-1 win at MSG.
In improving to 14-5-3 at home, they played a good overall game. Even though Anaheim outshot them 40-32 and out-attempted them 64-49, it was the Rangers who buried their chances while getting spectacular goaltending from Lundqvist (39 saves).
They did it with the impressive play of a new fourth line. In Mika Zibanejad’s return after missing nine games due to a concussion, it was David Desharnais and Paul Carey who were the story offensively. Playing with Jimmy Vesey, they combined on a pair of pretty goals to highlight the team’s victory.
With Zibanejad back centering Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, Alain Vigneault made a decision to keep Desharnais in over solid rookie Boo Nieves. It wasn’t anything Nieves did wrong. He formed a solid chemistry with Carey and Vesey. But Vigneault recognized that Desharnais played well offensively filling in for Zibanejad on the top line. So, he chose the vet with the better skill set over the kid.
It certainly worked out well with the playmaking Desharnais having a pair of primary assists on beautiful Carey finishes. His first came in the final minute of the first period. Nick Holden worked the puck over to Desharnais who skated down the wing and drew defenders before finding a wide open Carey for a nice finish at 19:14 for a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers started the second the same way. This time, it was Holden leading Mats Zuccarello, who made a superb pass across for Kevin Hayes. He made no mistake whistling a perfect wrist shot top shelf past Anaheim starter John Gibson at 38 seconds for a two-goal lead. It was Hayes’ eighth. If he shows more confidence with his shot, it could lead to a big second half for the two-way center.
In between Carey recording his first career two-goal game, there was Lundqvist going full beast mode. He turned away the Ducks in their tracks. Following a 16 save first, he followed it up with 15 big more in the second. Anaheim generates quality chances but were unable to get one past the King, who was a brick wall in another start. He’s really got into a good rhythm and is back on track. That’s why he was tabbed as the game’s number one star.
There was that new combo connecting again with seven minutes left to increase to a 3-0 lead. Vesey started it by getting the puck to Desharnais who once again had Carey all alone in the slot where he used a perfect wrist shot for his fourth at the 13-minute mark. He got plenty of ribbing at the bench from happy teammates. Something be discussed between periods with Al Trautwig.
To its credit, the Ducks didn’t give up. A night removed from blowing a game to the Devils, they kept coming. A remarkable Lundqvist stop on a Rickard Rakell deflection in front got the crowd to its feet. It was that good.
Anaheim would end the shutout bid when Ondrej Kase used Brady Skjei as a screen to beat Lundqvist at 14:43 from Getzlaf and Josh Manson. But that’s as close as they got.
Michael Grabner put the game away with his team-leading 17th. With Anaheim pinching, Jesper Fast forced a turnover at the Rangers blueline and started a two on one with the speedy Grabner. He got the puck over to Grabner, who was first robbed by Gibson and then had a put back go off a hustling Rakell and clang the goalpost.
At first, it looked like a miraculous save by Rakell. But it did look like it caromed in over the goal line. After a stoppage and video review, referee Wes McCauley confirmed it in comical fashion. With a delayed reaction which drew laughter from Vigneault and the bench before calling it a good goal.
Notes: In his return, Zibanejad had one shot and took 18 shifts logging 13:32 of ice-time including 11:14 even strength and 2:18 on the power play. As he gets into more games, figure that to increase along with Kreider (13:35) and Buchnevich (13:04). Vigneault rolled all four lines with everyone hitting double digits. … With two assists, Holden hit 100 career points. He’s 1-5-6 for the season and 33-68-101 for his career. … Faceoffs were dead even 25-25. J.T. Miller paced the Blueshirts going 7-and-4 while Hayes was 9-and-9. For the Ducks, Antoine Vermette was 10-and-6. …
With the Islanders 6-3 losers to Detroit, the Rangers moved ahead of them into third place with 41 points. By virtue of one more ROW (18), they’re ahead of Columbus who sit in the first wildcard with 41 points in a identical amount of games (34). Blueshirts take a 19-12-3 mark into Newark Thursday in a big showdown at the second place Devils (19-9-5). They have 43 points. The Hudson rivals split the first two. It’ll be the third of five meetings. The Caps remain in first with 45 points. The Islanders hold the second wildcard with 39. Two up on the struggling Pens and four ahead of the Flyers and Hurricanes.