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Jimmy Vesey scores twice as Rangers win fifth in a row

The Rangers' Jimmy Vesey celebrates a goal against the

The Rangers' Jimmy Vesey celebrates a goal against the Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Before Wednesday’s game against the Bruins, coach Alain Vigneault said forward Jimmy Vesey, who had been benched in the third period of two of the last five games, “was trying to find his rhythm and trying to find his game.”

Against the Bruins, the Harvard graduate who had scored 16 goals as a rookie last season unearthed both.

Vesey doubled his goal output from the first 16 games of the season, scoring twice in the first period to help the Rangers extend their win streak to five games with a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Vesey was hanging around the net in both cases. At 14:41, he put a bouncing puck past Tuukka Rask in front after Pavel Buchnevich, who had scored on a nifty move and shot under the crossbar at 9:53, kept the play alive. Just 29 seconds later, Vesey pulled the puck off the twine behind the right post after Kevin Shattenkirk’s shot and tucked in his second to provide a 3-1 lead. The assist gave Shattenkirk the NHL lead in points (16) among defensemen.

Jimmy Vesey, who grew up watching the Bruins, said afterward: “I’ve been trying to have good habits, finishing checks, stopping in front of the net, and there’s two pucks just laying there for me, I’ll take it. I think deep down, I get a little extra against Boston.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Vesey and Colorado rookie Alexander Kerfoot (in 21 seconds against the Islanders on Sunday) are the only players to score a pair of goals in fewer than 30 seconds this season.

“He’s had some good games, in Tampa, I thought that was a real strong game,” Vigneault said before the game. “Had some other games, with and without the puck, when some other guys were better. He’s still a very young player [24], second year in the league, and has a great attitude and work ethic.”

Trailing by two, the Bruins came out attacking in the second. Henrik Lundqvist had to dart right to left to deny Jordan Szwarz just before a carryover power play ended and made two other stops. At the other end, Rask (29 saves) blocked two Brady Skjei slappers.

All four first-period goals — including David Pastrnak’s backhander from the blue paint when Ryan McDonagh fell asleep for a second 21 ticks after Buchnevich’s highlight-reel score — were at even strength.

The Rangers’ penalty-kill, which was 21-for-23 in the last eight games, had to come up big for the second time against the fourth-best power play in the league when the Blueshirts were called for too many men on the ice with 6:14 left in the second. The Bruins had nine shots on goal already in the period and Lundqvist had stopped them all, plus two more from Danton Heinen.

Just 2:37 into the third, Nick Holden’s slash gave the Bruins a chance to pull within one. They had four shots on the prior two minors and two more as the Rangers and Lundqvist were 3-for-3. But Patrice Bergeron, who assisted on the first Bruins goal, spun in front and slid the puck past Lundqvist at 6:44. That sparked the visitors, who engaged in net-front battles and had a few quality scoring chances on Lundqvist (31 saves).

The Rangers killed another penalty after David Desharnais was whistled for tripping with 7:36 left. Rick Nash sealed it with an empty-netter with 7.7 seconds left.

Like the Rangers (8-7-2), the Bruins (6-5-3) started slow this season — they were 2-3, then earned points in seven of the last eight games. The Rangers are 7-2-0 after beginning on a 1-5-2 slide and wrapped up their sixth win in their past seven games and fourth straight at home, where they will host the Edmonton Oilers in a Saturday matinee.

New York Sports