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With win over Boston, Rangers looking like playoff contender

New York Rangers' Artemi Panarin is congratulated at

New York Rangers' Artemi Panarin is congratulated at the bench after scoring against the Boston Bruins during the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) Credit: AP/Winslow Townson

BOSTON — Twenty games into the season, the Rangers look like a legitimate playoff contender. They earned their seventh victory in the last eight games on Friday, scoring four straight goals, including three in the third period, in a 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden before a national television audience.

"I would say it’s a good feeling, but I also think that it’s a group that’s not satisfied,’’ center Ryan Strome said after the Rangers moved to 13-4-3. "I think we’re starting to feel like a winning team. [Tied] 2-2 in Boston, in the past, we’re young, we’re a little fragile, you never know what can happen. But I think tonight we stick with it. I think we’ve got a different feel to our team and we find a way to get a win.’’

Strome scored with 5.8 seconds left in the first period to tie it at 1-1 despite the fact that the Rangers were heavily outplayed by the Bruins in the opening 20 minutes and were outshot 17-5, according to the center-ice scoreboard.

"I pay no attention to the shot clock. They were marking shots that weren’t shots, and we had a couple of extra [that weren’t recorded],’’ Gerard Gallant said. "It’s just the feel of the game, and we didn’t like our first period.’’

But things turned around in the second as the Rangers officially outshot Boston 19-12. After Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 6:51, Dryden Hunt scored at 12:33 to begin the Rangers’ four-goal run. Hunt scored his second goal of the season, banging in the rebound of Ryan Lindgren’s shot.

In the third, Artemi Panarin crashed the net and jammed in a feed from Julien Gauthier at 11:35 to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Gauthier set up Alexis Lafreniere for a two-on-one goal that made it 4-2 at 16:22. Jacob Trouba scored an empty-netter at 19:48.

The third line of Gauthier, Lafreniere and Filip Chytil has provided energy and generated numerous scoring chances in the past five games, and Gallant said Gauthier has been playing with more confidence.

"Since he got back in the lineup, he’s real confident,’’ Gallant said. "I mean, he makes big plays like he did today. He’s really a good skater, he’s a big strong body, he’s bumping people [and] he’s looked really good. I’m really happy. I know that that line’s played really good for us. They scored a big goal tonight, it’s a huge goal. And I just want the kid to keep doing what he’s doing. Because everybody’s impressed with it.’’

"Every day, as I said, I work on my game,’’ Gauthier said. "It’s like an everyday thing for me. I really try to be better. If you want to stay in that league, you’ve got to be better and try to get better every day. That’s the only way to be a good player. And also, you know, just the opportunity. I’ve been playing more. I feel more confident with the pucks on the ice and just, you know, everything is kind of like falling into [place] for me.’’

Things also are falling into place for Hunt, who had been playing on the fourth line until Gallant put him with Panarin and Strome against the Islanders on Wednesday.

"Obviously, they’re two special players,’’ Hunt said, "so any time you get a chance to play with guys like that, it’s special. I’m just trying to make the most of it.’’

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