In the aftermath of their overtime loss against the Vegas Golden Knights in their last game Sunday, the Rangers bemoaned the fact that they played so poorly in the first two periods of that game, and didn’t play with energy and purpose until the final period. You can’t win hockey games playing just one period, they said then.
And then, Tuesday night against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks, the Rangers once again didn’t do much in the first two periods, and again, played their best hockey in the third. This time, 20 minutes of inspired hockey was enough for the Rangers to pull off a stunning come-from-behind, 3-1 win over a Ducks team that had won four in a row and nine of 10 coming in.
“We haven’t felt great about ourselves for a while,’’ said Rangers coach David Quinn, who naturally, was in a much better mood than he was on Sunday. “It’s been duly noted that we’ve been in a little bit of a spiral here; we’ve blown some leads; we’ve played some good hockey, but not good enough, and found ways to lose. But tonight was a feel-good moment for us. We didn’t play great in the first two, we didn’t play poorly; it was a very ‘blah’ hockey game, I thought, for two periods. And to be able to overcome the first two periods and play with the purpose and the pace that we did, a little bit of an edge to our game, is a testament to our guys and the mental aspect of this game.’’
Wearing their road white jerseys as visiting Anaheim wore a retro Mighty Ducks of Anaheim look, the Rangers trailed 1-0 entering the third period, but got goals from Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Hayes and Filip Chytil to snap an 0-2-1 skid and earn their first win since Dec. 8, and lift their season record to 15-13-5.
Hayes scored the winner, shorthanded, on a breakaway with 40.0 seconds remaining, with Chytil in the box for goalie interference after he ran into Anaheim goalie Chad Johnson with 2:35 left in regulation. Hayes skated up the left wing on a clean breakaway and took a wrist shot that was stopped by Johnson, but then leaked over the goal line for Hayes’ ninth goal of the season.
“I knew they had a backchecker, so I didn’t want to deke and overhandle it,’’ Hayes said of the game-winner. “I tried going low glove and I thought he stopped it. And it kind of trickled through.’’
Chytil added the empty-netter with 18.6 seconds left to seal the result.
Alexandar Georgiev, starting in goal to give Henrik Lundqvist a rare night off, made 14 mostly routine saves, just one in the third period, as the Rangers outshot Anaheim 14-1 in the third.
“I don’t remember the last time I had 15 shots on net,’’ said Georgiev. “Probably a few years ago in Europe. But we got the win, so that worked for us.’’
The only goal Georgiev gave up was a centering feed by Anaheim’s Pontus Aberg that Rangers center Mika Zibanejad dropped to his knees to try and block. The puck deflected off Zibanejad and in to give Anaheim the lead at 14:09 of the second period.
But Namestnikov, one of the more energetic Rangers all night, tied the game with his fourth goal of the season, finishing a Brett Howden pass from the left wing from the high slot at 9:52. For Namestnikov, it was a nice reward after he had been attacked by Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and challenged to a fight after trying to jam in a rebound late in the first period. Somehow, Namestnikov, who was only doing his job on that play, got the same four-minute, double roughing minor penalty as Getzlaf did.