Chris Kreider of the Rangers skates against the Coyotes at...

Chris Kreider of the Rangers skates against the Coyotes at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 16. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It’s not as if the Rangers dominated every game in that impressive sweep of their five-game road trip to Seattle and Western Canada. No, in at least a couple of those games, the Blueshirts had to find different ways to win. And their special teams played a huge part.

“I think the power play's got some history, and they're doing things well,’’ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said after the Blueshirts’ morning skate before Thursday's game against Carolina at the Garden. “I think the penalty kill has started to understand, and got some continuity and pressured a little bit better, and done some good things as well. So they've obviously been important pieces to a little bit of success recently. They're factoring into the wins.

Entering Thursday’s game, their first home game in two weeks, the Rangers owned the NHL’s second-ranked power play, a unit that had scored 11 goals in 32 opportunities (34.4%). Most importantly, though, itcame up with goals in big moments. In the 4-3 win over Vancouver, the Rangers scored three power play goals – two of them in 5-on-3 situations – before winning the game in overtime.

And in the win over Winnipeg, Chris Kreider scored on the power play with 6:48 left in regulation to tie the score, and the penalty kill came up with a huge stop after Ryan Lindgren was sent off on a phantom tripping penalty with 18.8 seconds left in regulation in a tied game. The man-down unit killed off the remaining time in regulation, then had to kill a minute and 41 seconds of the penalty in a 4-on-3 situation in overtime before Mika Zibanejad’s goal won it.

Of the Rangers’ 28 goals scored entering Thursday, 11 had come on the power play, one was shorthanded, and two came in overtime in 3-on-3 play. Only half their goals had come at 5-on-5.

“It's hard now, 5-on-5, to score,’’ penalty killer and shot-blocking fiend Nick Bonino said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We're just not creating as much (offensively) as we'd like, so… power plays are sometimes going to be the difference. And when 5-on-5 is not going, it's great that your special teams can win you games.’’

The Rangers’ top power-play unit of Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and point man Adam Fox, has been together for two seasons, and before that, Zibanejad, Kreider, Panarin, Fox and Ryan Strome had been together for years. The familiarity has been a big part in the group’s success.

“We haven't changed personnel,’’ Zibanejad said. “And obviously, when you score a few, you get confidence. And, take that Vancouver game for example, we get a four-minute power play, and the first thing we do is we (allow a shorthanded goal to) give them the lead, basically. And then we come back from that and score two (goals), on the same power plays.

“We're trying to, in some scenarios, have a ‘goldfish’ memory, and just forget what happened,’’ he continued. “If it's a bad power play the one before, then make sure that the next one is better and understand that we have we have possibilities to change the outcome of the game when we get a chance.’’

The penalty kill entered Thursday tied for 10th in the league with an 83.9% kill rate (26-for-31). Goalies Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick have done their part, but other factors have helped, too. Jacob Trouba entered Thursday first in the NHL in shot blocks with 33. Bonino is tied for second with 31. And winning faceoffs (the Rangers were third-best in the league, winning 54.5%) has helped, as well.

And, Bonino said, the players have adapted to Laviolette’s “diamond’’ penalty-killing formation, which was new to most of them. 

“I think our power play's really clicking, obviously, with the players on it,’’ Bonino said. “And PK-wise, I think we're executing the system.’’

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