Jimmy Vesey had scored the tying goal in the third period, and he was watching and waiting on the Rangers’ bench as Sunday’s game against the Canucks at the Garden extended into the seventh round of the shootout.
“It actually helped me, definitely,” Vesey said. “I saw Nasher [Rick Nash] be successful with a shot. I don’t think ice conditions are ever good at that point of the game, and it looked like the goalie [Jacob Markstrom] was deep in his crease, so the guys were shooting and I tried to get it over his glove. I had been on ice for all three goals against, and I wanted to make sure.”
In only his fourth career shootout attempt (he had been 1-for-3), Vesey skated in and stickhandled only once on the choppy ice. He went backhand to forehand and then wristed a shot over Markstrom’s glove hand to give the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Canucks.
The Rangers extended their home winning streak to eight games and their overall winning streak to four.
The Rangers (13-9-2) had trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before Vesey pulled them even at 5:05 of the third period on an outstanding spin-around pass from Nash on a rush. “I was coming late and might’ve got lost in coverage,” said Vesey, who beat Markstrom on a high backhander. “I didn’t even have time to yell for the puck and it was on my tape, and instinct just took over.”
Vesey had started the game on the fourth line, but coach Alain Vigneault moved him up to play with Nash and Kevin Hayes as the game progressed.
The Rangers didn’t play by instinct, or with any sharpness, until late in the second period, when they trailed 2-0 on goals by Loui Eriksson and Jake Virtanen. They had been outshot 18-10 and badly needed a spark. Jesper Fast provided it, fighting off Bo Horvat in front to beat Markstrom with a redirection of Nick Holden’s shot with 2:20 left.
“It was a huge goal for us,” said Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored in the shootout’s third round.
Michael Grabner tied it at 2 on the first shot 19 seconds into the third period, but Sam Gagner, left all alone in front, answered 41 seconds later off a pass from Thomas Vanek to make it 3-2. Brendan Smith had tried to clear it around the boards from behind the net, but the puck took a funny bounce and went right to Vanek.
After the Canucks controlled the three-on-three overtime, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make three saves, the goalie went to Vigneault with a suggestion. Home teams usually choose to shoot first, “but Hank told me to let them shoot first,” Vigneault said. “He was on top of his game today, so I trusted him.”
Lundqvist, who made his 12th straight start, allowed shootout goals by rookie Brock Boeser (third round) and Sven Baertschi (fifth). Nash scored for the Rangers in the fifth round.
“I thought I’d keep it simple,” Nash said. “It seemed like everyone who tries to deke, the pucks were bouncing. I thought I would try to get it over [Markstrom’s] shoulder. Good teams find ways to win the games that they don’t play their best, and I thought we did that.”
Asked if that meant the Rangers, who have won 10 of 12, are a good team, Nash said, “We’re getting there.”
After the game, Lundqvist, who made 29 saves and five in the shootout, said: “We have to feel good about what we’ve been doing the past four weeks. Our record is really good, but this league is so competitive that if you start to think that you’re that good — don’t fool yourself. You have to earn it every night.”