Game #48: Zibanejad scores twice to highlight Rangers’ 3-2 win over Bruins, third win a row into break


Here’s where Henrik Lundqvist ranks on the all-time NHL wins list following his 446th victory to pass Terry Sawchuk. AP Photo courtesy MSGNETWORKS via Twitter

This one was well earned. A job well done by a determined bunch of Rangers, who reeled off a third win in a row into the odd bye week and All-Star break with a 3-2 victory over the Bruins in Beantown.

It’s funny how it works sometimes. They only had 20 shots on goal and just 28 total attempts. The Bruins may have outshot them 29-20 and out-attempted the Blueshirts 56-28, but they didn’t outplay them. Especially during the crucial parts of a very competitive game that had a little emotion to it due to popular former Bruin defenseman Adam McQuaid returning to a nice video tribute and cheers from appreciative fans.

On a night Henrik Lundqvist passed Terry Sawchuk for sole possession of sixth place on the all-time wins list with number 446 in one of his favorite arenas historically (Lundqvist vs Tim Thomas especially), it was the Rangers who got big performances from their best players. That included emerging rookie Filip Chytil, who duplicated the goal he scored against Chicago by doing the same thing to Boston late in the first period to tie the game 64 seconds after Danton Heinen tallied.

Chytil’s ninth unassisted (third in five games) was a thing of beauty. It was another great end to end rush that started deep in his own end with the supremely skilled 19-year old Czech forward able to skate by the Bruins D before whipping a perfect shot high short side on Tuukka Rask at 18:32. Unfortunately for Rask, Chytil was shoved from behind into him for a direct hit that knocked out the Bruins starter. What really is too bad is that he sustained a concussion due to the impact. Hopefully, he won’t miss significant time. Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery. Here’s how it looked in top speed via the Bruins feed on NESN called by Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley:

There was nothing he could’ve done. He tried to avoid Rask, but Charlie McAvoy checked him right into his poor teammate. If you look carefully at the replay following his goal, a concerned Chytil went over to Rask to check, but David Pastrnak pushed him away. It’s understandable why. It had to be extremely frustrating for the Bruins at the moment. They knew the injury was bad to Rask, who immediately was replaced by backup Jaro Halak.

Nobody likes to see anyone get hurt. It was a subplot to a good hockey game that was hard fought by both classic Original Six rivals. A big reason the Rangers won was their special teams. In the opening period, they went three-for-three on Bruins power plays. That included a pivotal kill of a Ryan Lindgren hi-sticking double minor in the first half. In fact, the more aggressive tactics actually resulted in better chances for the Rangers with Boston held to only one shot in the four-minute power play. That resulted in groans from the pro Bruins crowd.

Penalties weren’t a problem in the second. The Rangers took only one while on the power play with Kevin Shattenkirk called for a dubious trip that resulted in four-on-four. In what was a tightly contested second, they got the lone goal at five-on-five thanks to a rare face-off win by a unlikely candidate.

In a game where the Bruins dominated in the middle by winning 64 percent (42-and-24), they had one of the game’s best in Patrice Bergeron against Mats Zuccarello after Mika Zibanejad got tossed out. Easy win for Bergeron, right? Wrong! Zuccarello won it clean back to Brady Skjei, whose shot was redirected in by Zibanejad for a 2-1 lead. Just how they drew it up. Even Sam Rosen and Joe Michelleti sounded shocked.

Things couldn’t be going any better for Zuccarello, who recorded two assists to pad his total to nine points (4-5-9) over the last five games. He also had a run in with the much taller and stronger Zdeno Chara, which is always amusing. Zuccarello versus Chara. He doesn’t back down from anyone. It’s nice to see him having fun again, and playing superb hockey. Whoever winds up with him will get a good player that can bring a lot to the table for a playoff run.

The interesting aspect is in winning a third consecutive game, the Rangers are up to 49 points with 34 games remaining. They somehow are only nine points behind the Penguins, who lost in Vegas 7-3. It’s not happening. However, it’s a credit to the players for how they responded since David Quinn’s roast job last Sunday. They went 3-0-0 this week to get back over NHL .500 (21-20-7) with a 10-day vacation. Lundqvist will go to the All-Star Game having won three in a row. That has to feel good. He looked very happy in the postgame talking to John Giannone.

He mentioned the focus on the penalty kill and special teams that won them the game. They not only were five-of-five on the kill, but went 1-for-3 on the power play highlighted by Zibanejad’s game deciding PPG with 10:55 left in the contest. On the game-winner, Zuccarello got the puck to Shattenkirk at the point. He found Zibanejad in his spot for a wicked wrist shot past Halak for his 17th. He’s playing the best hockey of his career. Zibanejad goes into the break on a three-game goal scoring streak with five goals. He also has two assists and seven points over those three. In the past five, he’s 5-4-9 and plus-five. He leads the team in scoring with 44 points (17-27-44) in all 48 games.

There also was this from McQuaid in direct response to a questionable hit from Chris Wagner on a unsuspecting Jesper Fast.

This is what makes McQuaid such a great teammate. It’s why he was extremely popular in Boston. He took care of business against Wagner. In typical fashion, the Rangers wound up a man down due to McQuaid getting the extra two for roughing. Somehow, Wagner skated free of any interference minor penalty for the hit on Fast. He saw him all the way too. What a league. Wagner is a physical player who likes to hit. So, it came as no surprise. I didn’t like it, but I was more incensed by the call that gave Boston a power play. Poetically, they did nothing on it.

After Halak was pulled for an extra attacker, Lundqvist made a couple of saves to preserve the win. He finished with 27 saves. He also got plenty of help from willing teammates, who sacrificed for the cause. That included Marc Staal selling out for a huge diving block that denied a Boston opportunity. The kind of gritty play the defunct captain has done for years without much recognition. He’s played very well since Tony DeAngelo was teamed with him. Even when Neal Pionk returns, that pairing must stay together. DeAngelo has played very well, proving he can be dependable.

It was a good way to conclude the first half if you can call it that. It was great to stick it to Boston after the Wagner hit. A well deserved win that saw plenty of happy faces as they took off for the break.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Filip Chytil, NYR (another goal for the highlight reel for the rising future star)

2nd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, NYR (two more goals for the top center who’s been on his game)

1st 🌟 Adam McQuaid, NYR (it’s rare that I give the number 1 star to a heart and soul guy with no points, but McQuaid’s imprints were all over this win from his response to Fast being hit to his 4 hits, 3 blocks and 2 takeaways. A true warrior!)

Notes: Brad Marchand got the Bruins second goal early in the third following a Lundqvist misplay that allowed Bergeron and Pastrnak to combine to set up The Rat’s 19th at 3:24. Boston carried the play early on, but the Blueshirts had a good response with Zibanejad’s second of the game proving to be the difference. …

A day after Alexandar Georgiev was sent down to Hartford, the Rangers optioned both Boo Nieves and Lindgren, who looked good in his first three games. They’ll get into more games to stay sharp. It doesn’t look like Brett Howden will be following them. He’s been a huge scoring slump. But maybe some time away from the rink is best. … When Kevin Hayes returns, what happens to the lineup? Does Howden come out? With how well Ryan Strome has centered Chytil and Fast, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide. Ditto for Pionk with Shattenkirk finally starting to round into form.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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