It's hardly ever easy for the Rangers. Coming off an impressive victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday, the Rangers had to turn it on late to get past the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night, scoring three times in the third period for a 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden.
It was a little tricky to navigate for defenseman Keith Yandle, facing his former team for the first time since joining the Rangers in a trade last March 1. Some of his pals on the Coyotes, for whom he played for parts of nine seasons, were flipping pucks at him during warmups.
"I tried not to think about it [playing against his former teammates]," Yandle said. "It was a little bit emotional, but after the first couple shifts, it was game time."
Yandle put the Rangers up 3-1, scoring on a blast from the left point on the power play that bounced off defensemen Nicklas Grossmann and Connor Murphy and past goalie Mike Smith at 6:24 of the third period.
"AV [coach Alain Vigneault] talked about it between periods, just getting some pucks to the net and creating traffic," he said. "I was just trying to get it there and got lucky. It hit a few guys and went in. Getting your first goal of the season is always fun, but scoring against your old team . . . I mean, the big thing is getting the win, obviously. It's one of those things that is nice to get in the win."
Yandle, Marc Staal said, "was ready to go before the game. You could tell. It's nice for him to get a reward."
Yandle's goal came nearly four minutes after the Rangers (5-2-1) broke a 1-1 tie. J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes harassed Smith into a misplay behind his net, and Hayes spun in front to score on a backhander into the vacated net at 2:35.
By that point, the Coyotes (3-3-1), who had dressed seven defensemen, were down to 10 forwards. Antoine Vermette left with a lower-body injury in the second and did not return.
With less than a minute left, Rick Nash was hooked by Mikkel Boedker on a breakaway with an empty net and was awarded the goal, his first of the season. Said Staal: "He's the only guy that can score without scoring."
The Rangers could joke after the win, but it was no laughing matter before they tied the score in the second.
Klas Dahlberg had put the Coyotes ahead 1-0 at 15:34 of the first period, beating Henrik Lundqvist, who had a clear view of the shot, with a wrister from the left circle off the rush. Rookie Max Domi, the son of former Ranger Tie Domi, set up Dahlberg.
But Lundqvist, who did not play in the 4-0 victory over the Sharks, didn't allow another goal. He made 34 saves and helped the Rangers to their seventh straight win over the Coyotes at the Garden.
Chris Kreider's first goal of the season, on a headfirst dive and tip of Mats Zuccarello's pass that went past Smith at 10:06 of the second, tied it at 1-1.
"Not a lot of intensity in the first 20 minutes," said Lundqvist, who said he was "a little slow to react" to the Coyotes' goal. "They shut it down after that. We just had to stay patient. After we tied the game, I felt like we got energized, playing a faster game. They made a couple mistakes and we took advantage of it."