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Rangers overcome defensive lapses, end losing streak with win over Hurricanes

The New York Rangers celebrate a popwer-play goal

The New York Rangers celebrate a popwer-play goal by New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Rangers' season-high three-game losing streak ended Monday night -- barely.

Outplayed five-on-five by the Hurricanes for most of the game at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers scored on their first two power plays, and Carolina goalie Cam Ward's gaffes gave them two more goals and a three-goal lead.

But the Blueshirts' overall defense, which was leaky even before the losing streak, allowed the visitors to stick around. Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves for the Rangers, who were fortunate to escape with a 4-3 win.

"We were happy with our start, but for the second half of the game, it was us hanging on," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who set up the power-play goals. "We're certainly not happy with the way we played down the stretch, but we managed to get the two points."

Derick Brassard, who had a goal and an assist, knows there still are issues to resolve before the Rangers (17-6-2) face the Islanders in Brooklyn Wednesday night. "It wasn't perfect,'' he said, "but for the most part, I thought we competed hard."

The Rangers, who have won 11 in a row at home against Carolina (8-12-4), avoided tying a forgettable mark: The last time they had lost four straight was Feb. 3-11, 2011.

The Blueshirts played without Derek Stepan (broken ribs) and were down to five defensemen after 6:31 of the first period, when Kevin Klein left with a lower-body muscle strain. "It was harder for our D-corps," Brassard said, "but I thought they responded well. We answered with a better effort. We just have to clean up a few things."

With the Rangers leading 4-2 heading into the third, a period in which they have been shaky lately, Lundqvist stopped Elias Lindholm twice, and Ward steadied at the other end. With the Rangers pressing, the Hurricanes trimmed the lead to 4-3 on a breakaway in which Chris Terry slid the puck under Lundqvist at 8:23. After that, the Rangers had to really bear down.

With Carolina trailing 2-0, Hurricanes center Jordan Staal was left alone in front and redirected Andrej Nestrasil's pass by Lundqvist at 1:40 of the second period. But Chris Kreider spun from a bad angle on the right side and the puck zipped inside the Hurricanes' far post 42 seconds later to restore the two-goal lead, prompting Ward to smash his goal stick in frustration.

The Rangers extended the lead to 4-1 at 15:49. Ward tried a clearing pass that was intercepted by Kevin Hayes, speeding out of the penalty box, and he found Brassard for a one-timer at 15:49.

The shakiness continued and the Hurricanes trimmed the lead to two again when Victor Rask's shot went through Lundqvist's pads at 17:59.

Despite only six shots on Ward in the first period, the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead. Mats Zuccarello's 11th goal came on a snap shot after a feed from Boyle at 1:09, five seconds after Brett Pesce went to the box. Oscar Lindberg's goal came at 18:23, 12 seconds after John-Michael Liles' interference. Boyle found Lindberg between the circles for a one-timer and his ninth goal.

"He's so good at anticipating the next play," Ryan McDonagh said of Boyle, a healthy scratch the previous two games. "It's great to see him step in and not miss a beat."

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