The power play clicked twice. Crisp passes went tape-to-tape for goals. The goaltender was sharp when he needed to be, which was quite often after the first period.
For a team that looked disconnected a week ago, the Rangers were dialed in last night. They won their second straight by beating the Bruins, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers extended their lead over the Penguins to four points for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
With the Rangers up 3-1 in the third period, former Ranger Lee Stempniak, who scored earlier and had another goal disallowed on an offside, was robbed by Henrik Lundqvist at 3:35, when he reached back to barely scoop the puck off the goal line.
A league review — and there were several last night — was not conclusive enough to determine that the puck completely crossed the line and the two-goal lead was preserved. That save turned out to be instrumental in the win, because J.T. Miller extended the lead with his 20th goal, finishing a tic-tac-toe sequence with Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan just under three minutes later.
Boston rookie Frank Vatrano scored with 7:54 left, but Lundqvist shut the door, finishing with 39 saves. On the ensuing faceoff, Rick Nash outraced David Krejci for an unassisted empty-netter with 2:53 left.
On the strength of power-play goals by Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan, each set up beautifully by Keith Yandle, the Rangers led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
“We talked about special teams playing a huge part this time of year,” Miller said. “The power play has been great for us the last five or six games.”
Jimmy Hayes was in the box for slashing when Yandle, at the left point, threaded a diagonal pass to Zuccarello, positioned to the left to Tuukka Rask. Zuccarello fired from the angle, the puck struck Rask’s arm and his 24th goal caromed in at 8:37.
Stempniak appeared to tie the score at 10:55, but Alain Vigneault used the coaches’ challenge, claiming offsides, and a review indicated that Patrice Bergeron had been offsides. The goal was waved off to cheers from the Garden rafters.
Then Yandle earned his 37th assist of the season. Sixteen seconds into a man-advantage when Krejci was whistled for holding, Yandle sped through the neutral zone and split the defense, with Zdeno Chara watching. Stepan, awarded an assist on the first goal, was waiting alone at the right post and Yandle fed him for the gimme, his 17th, at 11:39.
Stepan, who had three points, praised Yandle’s skill. “He understands the importance of passing on the power play. When he make a pass it’s right on the tape and to a guy in a scoring area. That isn’t easy and he does it really well.”
At the start of the second, Jonas Gustavsson replaced Rask, who reportedly had been sick Tuesday. Gustavsson made three good saves after Jimmy Hayes was sent off for goaltender interference. The Blueshirts couldn’t score on the power play but a minute late, a rising rocket from the top of the left circle off the rush by Derick Brassard — his 26th — made it 3-0 at 5:26.
With no review necessary this time, Stempniak scored in close off a defensive zone cough-up that created a two-on-none and beat Lundqvist easy to trim the lead to 3-1 at 9:34.