All those tip drills in practice paid off for Jesper Fast.
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The Swedish right wing used the blade of his stick to deflect Keith Yandle’s rising shot from the left point past Tuukka Rask with 1:42 left in regulation on Monday night, giving the Rangers a 2-1 comeback victory over the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.
“A little lucky there,” Fast said of his career-high seventh goal, his second in the last six games. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve been working really hard and didn’t have the bounces, so it’s nice to get a win in this type of game. It’s not often that I’m scoring the last goal of the game. Great feeling.”
In the first game of the second half of the regular season, the Rangers (23-14-5, 51 points) moved two points ahead of the Islanders, whom they visit Thursday night. The Blueshirts have collected five of a possible six points on this three-game homestand against the Stars, Capitals and Bruins.
“We really turned it up again in the third, which is a really good sign that we have that determination,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 32 saves but allowed Jimmy Hayes’ uncontested 40-foot goal from the high slot at 9:05 of the second period.
“It’s not easy to come back against a team that plays so well defensively, with the goaltending they’ve been getting,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
Even more impressive was that the Rangers played more than half the game with five defensemen. Dan Girardi left the ice at 4:46 of the second period with a bleeding hand and did not return. “It’s not broken,” Vig neault said. “Just seems like a cut on the thumb [from a shot].’’
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, the Rangers tied the score on Derick Brassard’s goal 35 seconds into the third. Ryan McDonagh kept the puck in the zone along the wall and moved it to Mats Zuccarello, who got the puck to Brassard, open at the right post. He roofed it over Rask for his 15th of the season.
The Rangers had few rebounds, not much energy and little possession time in the first 40 minutes, but Brassard’s goal gave them some life.
“Mac kept the puck in, beat two guys and gave it to Zuc. He brought the puck to the net,” Brassard said. “They made the play; I just finished.”
Along with Fast’s game-winner on his team-high fourth shot, the Rangers have 11 third-period goals in the last five games. They scored three third-period goals in three of the previous four games.
The Bruins pulled Rask (28 saves) after Fast’s goal but the Rangers held on, unlike against the Capitals on Saturday, when they allowed Nicklas Backstrom’s tying goal from in front with 5.7 seconds left in regulation in what became an overtime loss. “That was extremely tough to accept,” Lundqvist said.
Said McDonagh, who played 24:27: “After what happened with Washington, it’s a good sign to get back to protecting the house and getting one timely save from Henrik.”
Said Lundqvist: “I thought they played their best in the third, under pressure and down a man . . . In the last seven games, we’re 4-2-1. It’s important we start focusing on the good things.