Thanks to an eight-game stretch of stinginess, the Rangers had moved into third place in the NHL on the penalty kill before facing the Devils on Sunday night.
The Blueshirts hadn’t allowed a power-play goal in six games and had denied 22 of the last 23 power-play opportunities in eight. They went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill Sunday night.
Some of the credit goes to improved goaltending and some to first-year assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom. “The best thing about penalty-killing? Goaltending,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I would say that sometimes when there’s misreads on the ice, goaltending bails you out. But there’s no doubt that it has been an emphasis. Jeff has done a real good job tweaking some areas, and it’s paid off in the last couple of games.”
Holden, Staal in sync
Nick Holden, the lefty defenseman playing the right side, has been a positive influence on Marc Staal, Vigneault said. “I think both of them have some chemistry. They read off one another real well and Nick moves the puck maybe a little bit quicker than Marc,” he said, “so that permits us probably to spend a little less time in our end, and that’s beneficial for both of them.”
Metro Division strong
With five teams above the 40-point mark in the Metropolitan Division, “there’s no doubt that at this present time in the NHL, we are the dominant division,” Vigneault said.
In the rest of the NHL, only three teams have reached 40 points. Vigneault added, “You go back a couple years, the West looked like they had the better teams, but right now, [it’s] our division, because of the wins. But I look at the league and the parity; every night players bust their gut to try and get two points.”
Brandon Pirri (one goal in his last 15 games), who had played 32 straight, was scratched for the second straight game . . . The Rangers have been playing with leads most of the season. It was only the second time they won after trailing going into the third period . . . Rick Nash had five shots and leads the team with 88. Kevin Hayes also had five shots and won 12 of 19 faceoffs . . . In the last seven games, Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have made 173 saves on 179 shots.