VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Bring out the broom. The battling Blueshirts swept through Western Canada.
With a 7-2 defeat of the Canucks on Tuesday night, thanks to a strong performance from Henrik Lundqvist, two goals each from J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes and three points from Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers won their third game in four days, and will fly back to the United States on Wednesday with a 13-4 record.
The Rangers tied a season high with seven goals and a single-period season high with four goals in the third. And they’ve outscored their last three opponents 14-4.
“I’m not surprised we’re winning games,” said Miller, who has 17 points in 16 games. “Obviously, it’s surprising at the rate we’re scoring right now, but we’re getting every line to chip in. We’re never, ever planning to score five goals, seven goals, but we’re finding ways to get people open and put pucks in the net. ”
In all three games, the Rangers had built leads going into the final 20 minutes, and either shut the opponent down or extended the advantage.
Leading 3-2, the Blueshirts did the latter Tuesday, with Miller and Hayes each beating Jacob Markstrom in a 42-second span early in the third period.
Lundqvist, who made 35 saves Saturday against Calgary, stopped 38 shots for his ninth win of the season.
“You want to get points from every game you can,” Lundqvist said. “But it’s good to see a lot of guys with confidence. They feel good about their game. You can see they’re not hanging on to their sticks too hard, they get a chance to look up and make a play. Sometimes when you want to score, you shoot all the time and get pretty predictable.”
“There’s no doubt we’re scoring a lot of goals,” Alain Vig neault said. “Tonight, for me though, the word was more like ‘ice pack.’ They put their bodies on the line to block shots, came back and continued to play through the pain. That was a big statement, the willingness to pay the price in defensive situations and we were opportunistic at the right time.”
The Canucks dominated the first period, pinning the Rangers in their zone and forcing Lundqvist to make 17 saves — the most in any period this season — and fended off two power plays, both on penalties to Oscar Lindberg. The Rangers had 10 shots, but made one count.
With 1:18 left in the period, Mats Zuccarello’s shot was redirected by Miller, changed direction and went past Markstrom for his sixth goal. Earlier in the period, after the Henrik Sedin line dominated a shift, Miller had a semi-breakaway, Markstrom sprawled and Miller didn’t get a decent shot, and he slammed his stick on the ice in frustration.
The Rangers, who were without injured forwards Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich, played the second half of the period with 11 forwards after Derek Stepan limped off after blocking Troy Stecher’s point shot with his right leg. He tried to stand, but couldn’t, and from his knees, swept the puck clear across the blue line. But Stepan, who was on ice a total of 2:14, left the bench with 10:23 remaining for treatment.
Stepan returned for the start of the second period, and the Rangers were more in control, holding on to the puck much more and breaking out of their zone. Hayes’ 45-foot slap shot from the high left circle beat Markstom short side at 9:08 to lift the lead to 2-0 and Lundqvist did his part, stoning Michael Chaput in close.
When Luca Spisa slashed Miller, the Rangers capitalized on the ensuing power play. Mika Zibanejad’s one-timer from the circle via Ryan McDonagh’s pass from the point was stopped by Markstrom, but Brandon Pirri swept in the rebound at 14:38 for a 3-0 edge.
Brandon Sutter’s long shot from the right side, with Lundqvist hugging the post and Sedin screening, went past the far side of the netminder with 41 seconds left in the second to reduce the Canucks’ deficit to 3-1. That wasn’t enough to lift Vancouver (6-10-1) or slow the speedy Rangers.
Jesper Fast, who also had limped to the bench after blocking a shot late in the second, dove to push a pass to Hayes in the neutral zone and he beat Markstrom with a wrister at 1:49 of the third period. Miller then deposited a behind-the-net feed from Zuccarello at 2:31, and the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
Vancouver’s Markus Granlund batted down a shot off the crossbar and in at 13:26 to make it 5-2, but Zuccarello’s snap shot with at 15:02 and Nick Holden’s power-play slapper at 18:04 completed the scoring for the Rangers.