ST. LOUIS — On a New Year’s Eve in which the Rangers held on for a 2-1 win over the Blues to finish up a sweep of their two-game Midwest road trip, they hardly seemed in a mood to celebrate.
“The feeling’s not great right now,’’ Chris Kreider said. “We didn’t deserve to win that game. I mean, great that we did, and you need to find ways to win those games, and that was a greasy road win. But definitely not good enough.’’
“Probably the definition of a greasy, ugly road win tonight,’’ defenseman Adam McQuaid said. “We certainly didn’t have our best, but Hank [Henrik Lundqvist] had a great game, and we found a way, I guess.’’
There was one guy who wasn’t about to apologize for the way the Rangers earned two points. Lundqvist had 39 saves and said he would have been happy to make more if needed.
“It was fun to battle,’’ said Lundqvist, who described the game as “intense.’’
“As a goalie, when you feel like the guys battle as hard [as you], you get excited,’’ he said. “You want to play even harder. You want to try to make that extra save . . . Maybe we didn’t play our best, but we came up with the big plays in the end, at the right time, and that wins you so many games in this league.’’
Maybe the Rangers got some breaks on this night, but there have been so many nights in which they played well and didn’t get those breaks — and didn’t win — that Lundqvist is not giving back the points.
“If we don’t dig deep here in the next three weeks, we’re probably out of the [playoff] race,’’ he said. “And like I talked about the last couple weeks: It’s not about being great all the time; we’ve got to be smart. And playing the last 10 minutes, we don’t need to take a chance.’’
The Rangers didn’t take any chances once Boo Nieves — playing in place of rookie Filip Chytil, who was scratched for the first time in his career — scored his second goal of the season at 3:11 of the second period to break a tie at 1. They killed three second-period penalties and withstood more than two minutes of six-on-five hockey at the end to earn the win.
The Rangers closed out the calendar year with a 17-14-7 record and 41 points through 38 games. They went 2-0-2 in their last four games of the year, 3-1-4 in their last eight and 4-2-5 in their last 11.
With Kevin Shattenkirk back in the lineup, Rangers coach David Quinn chose to lead with his five-forward power-play unit — Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Kreider, Vladislav Namestnikov and Mats Zuccarello — and it worked.
Kreider set up Zuccarello for his fourth goal of the season with 19.6 seconds remaining in the first period to tie the score after St. Louis’ Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring with a one-timer at 10:08.
Quinn wasn’t so proud of the performance, but he was happy to take it and get out of town.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to find a way to get two points and there are a whole different bunch of ways to do it, and we got it because we got a great goalie,’’ he said. “I thought we played really well for 25 minutes and then we got up 2-1 and we acted like it was 9-1. Give [the Blues] credit; they came hard and gave us a lot of problems, but we also created some of our own problems.’’