To the untrained eye, the Rangers seemed to waver when the Bruins erased a 2-0 lead by scoring twice in 1:36 late in the third period.

               That’s not how Chris Higgins saw it,.

               “We let up just a little bit, especially on the shorthanded one,” he said. “We let them back into the game a little bit. I know some people won’t believe this, but even then we were confident we were going to win.”

               And why not be skeptical? Given that the Rangers struggle mightily to score, a third goal in the remaining four minutes seemed farfetched. Overtime seemed likely.

               But Higgins got by Johnny Boychuk on the left boards and his backhander at the left post beat Tuukka Rask and sent the Garden crowd, which hasn’t witnessed much clutch scoring or victories on Broadway this season, into a frenzy.

               The evening started with promise, when Ales Kotalik scored from the point on the power play. It was his first goal since Nov. 5, a 21-game drought.

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               “When you find yourself in this situation, you are reaching fro something to make you better,” he said. :I have been putting in the work and trying to get some shot in the net but the pucks don’t go in…hopefully it starts something for me.”

               Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, each had two assists, including Dubinsky’s 100th point. He led the team with 24:16 of ice time, recorded five hits and four shots on Rask. He is 4-5-9 in seven games and said he’s getting used to the simpler, bullish game on left wing rather than center.

               “I think I’ve definitely gotten more scoring chances playing the wing. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, but I feel comfortable out there and I’m happy with the way things are going. I think Erik brings a lot to the line with his skill level; and he battles hard in the corners.”

               Erik is Erik Christensen, who has four points (2-2) in three games and may have earned himself a permanent spot on the roster when Vinny Prospal returns from knee surgery. It also was his first goal in regulation or overtime at the Garden.

              “I thought Koats (Ales Kotalik, who scored on a point shot on the PP in the first and had three other shots on Rask) played better tonight, not only on the power play but five-on-five,”said John Tortorella, “ and Higgy scores the winner. He is a guy who has played well in all other areas, but just hasn’t scored, but he comes up with a big goal.”

               And it has been a loooooong time for the Smithtown native. Higgins scored on opening night here in his first game as a Canadien, on Oct. 6, 2005.

                “Hopefully this opens doors for them,” said Dubinsky, who didn’t want to talk about the scrambles that allowed two goals in the third and almost cost the Rangers.               

               “It’s big to have a 2-0 lead,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 26 saves in his 16th straight start. “We don’t have that a lot….When we score three goals we are going to have a good chance to win the game. We had some guys who haven’t  been scoring for awhile step up. It’s a crucial time right now, a big month. It’s important to get everyone going.”  

               With the win, only the ninth in 22 games at the Garden this season, the Rangers 20-17-5 have 45 points, just four behind the fifth-place Bruins in the East.

 

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              My game story, quotes and notes are on newsday.com's sports page; the Rangers skate at noon tomorrow....It was a physical game, with 38 hits for the Bs, 35 for the Rangers...Dallas visits Wednesday and the Rangers leave immediately afterward for Atlanta, where it is believed that rooke G Chad Johnson will make his first NHL start...Other numbers: Rangers were 1-5 on the PP and surrendered the shortie, their fifth of the season...They had just two shots on three consecutive PPs in the first...The PK was 3-for-3...Chris Drury (10) and Mike Del Zotto (16) posted assists, the latter on a nice headman pass to center ice that resulted in the Christensen goal. It was the 19-year-old' defenseman's first point in 10 games....Donald Brashear played 5:51 and had two shots and two hits.