After losing two straight games, “we obviously have a bad taste in our mouths,” Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said before Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.
That taste disappeared after Rick Nash stole the puck from Christian Folin at mid-ice, curled back and beat Jonathan Quick with a low wrister just inside the post that snapped a tie with 3:27 left in regulation as the Rangers rebounded with a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Nash’s winner from the left circle, his ninth goal of the season, was his second in three games. The final goal came with Quick pulled. Jimmy Vesey blocked a shot — one of 25 for the Rangers — and Mats Zuccarello found J.T. Miller for an empty-netter with 53.4 seconds left.
“I thought we played pretty much as close to a full 60 [minutes] as we have all season,” Nash said. “We were on a line change, so we’re trying to defend; luckily enough, I picked the pass out of the air.
“Had kind of the same play in the first and I tried to go high glove and [Quick] just moved his chest in front of it, so I thought I’d try low blocker.”
Nash “had three great looks in the first period . . . but at the right time, he came up real big for us,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Rangers (17-12-3), who have moved into a wild-card spot, don’t have time to party: They visit the Bruins in Boston on Saturday.
The Rangers led 1-0 and 2-1, only to see the Kings, who came in on an 8-1-1 run, tie the score twice before Nash struck.
Kevin Hayes whipped a shot off a rush over Quick’s right shoulder to provide a 2-1 lead at 14:43 of the second period. But the Kings tied it in the third on a delayed penalty. Marian Gaborik, who scored earlier, slipped through the defense, forcing Henrik Lundqvist (33 saves) to make a stop, but no one picked up Torrey Mitchell, who buried the rebound at 7:59.
“That’s a big team over there, they play a heavy style . . . so when there are those 50-50 battles, you’ve got to try to come up with the majority of them to get something going offensively,” Ryan McDonagh said. “It was good to see our power play get going again.”
With Jussi Jokinen off for hooking at 8:58 of the first, the Rangers’ 3-for-34 power play set up against the NHL’s top penalty kill. Shattenkirk noted that “we’re a little hesitant to shoot pucks right now, especially on my unit with Mika [Zibanejad] gone. He was kind of our aggressive shooter; we need to all step up in that role.”
Shattenkirk’s low wrister from the point hit Jake Muzzin and Chris Kreider in front and went in for a 1-0 lead at 10:23. Early in the second, Gaborik’s 33-foot wrister squeezed through Lundqvist’s pads at 3:46.
“I tried to hang on to as many pucks as I could, because they have two or three guys around the net just waiting, and most of the forwards made some really big blocks,” Lundqvist said. “It would be tough to sit here and feel like we played a pretty strong game but not get the points. Right now, that’s all we’re looking for is to get the points. ’’