Good Morning
Good Morning

Mats Zuccarello’s OT goal gives Rangers much needed win

Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York

Mats Zuccarello #36 of the New York Rangers celebrates his overtime goal against the Anaheim Ducks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Rangers opted for their road white jerseys in the final home game of 2015. Odd, because they are 6-7-3 away from Broadway this season.

Surprise! The away jerseys — worn at Madison Square Garden for the first time this year Tuesday — may have been infused with some Christmas magic, especially those worn by Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard.

Brassard converted two gifts from the Anaheim Ducks in the first and third periods, but Richard Rakell, using Ryan McDonagh as a screen, tied the game with 2:54 left in regulation with a top-corner wrister over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove from the left circle.

Mistakes were clearly the deciding factor Tuesday. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was called for holding McDonagh at 1:07 of overtime, and Dan Boyle fed Zuccarello in the right circle with 2:23 left for his team-leading 15th goal and 30th point and a 3-2 victory. It was just their second win in eight games.

“We took advantage of it [the power play],” Derek Stepan said. “At that point, our only focus was to find a way to get a win going into Christmas. Whether or not it builds momentum after Christmas, it certainly makes us feel good about ourselves. There’s certainly a lot of work that needs to be done.”

When the Blueshirts (20-12-4, 44 points) return after the four-day Christmas break, they will have 46 games remaining. They are 14-5-1 at the Garden, which was filled with holiday revelers hoping that the Blueshirts would end a three-game losing streak.

“It was a must win for us for so many reasons. You could tell it was two teams looking for a good feeling,” said Lundqvist, who made 17 saves. “We didn’t give up much. I think tonight we were really paying attention to being in the right place.”

Despite the tailspin, they are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Islanders.

The Rangers certainly had some pushback against the Ducks (12-16-5), who have scored the fewest goals in the league (61). At 5:35 of the first period, for example, Tanner Glass dropped the gloves with forward Pat Maroon and recovered after Corey Perry scooped up a loose puck after McDonagh and Marc Staal lost a battle behind the net, and provided a 1-0 lead at 11:16. With 2:20 left in the period, Brassard picked off a weak pass by Maroon deep in the Ducks zone and buried his 12th of the season for the tie.

In their previous game at the Garden, the Rangers led the Capitals 3-1 after 20 minutes, then caved, losing, 7-3. On Tuesday, neither team scored in the second. In fact, each squad had just five shots. The Rangers had two power plays, with one shot in each of the three overall. At 6:48, Miller and Ryan Kesler dropped the gloves for a little bout.

In the third, it seemed as if whichever team could limit their gaffes might grab two points. The Rangers fended off Kevin Hayes’ minor for hooking Carl Hagelin at 33 seconds. Then, unfortunately for the Ducks, it was Nate Thompson’s turn. His poor pass turned into a giveaway to Zuccarello in the defensive zone, which allowed him to feed Brassard on his right for his second goal at 2:44 and a 2-1 lead. Brassard, who assisted on Zuccarello’s winner, has more goals (13) against the Ducks than any other opponent.

“We had a tough schedule here, so we’ll use these days to be with family, friends, have some fun and relax. We need it,” Zuccarello said. “Maybe go to the gym once or twice just to keep it going, but enjoy our time off. ’’

New York Sports