NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 10:53 PM
Derick Brassard (c.) celebrates with Rangers teammates Kevin Klein and Rick Nash in a 5-2 win over Boston at the Garden on Wednesday night.
Clearly, no one took more offense at last week’s abysmal San Jose showing than the Rangers themselves.
Alain Vigneault’s Blueshirts took down the Boston Bruins, 5-2, at the Garden on Wednesday night for a second straight home win with an entertaining combination of skill, brawn and elite goaltending to back up Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
Power play captain Keith Yandle (two assists) blazed to primary assists on two first-preiod power play goals by Mats Zuccarello (goal, assist) and Derek Stepan (goal, assist), on a man advantage that has scored eight goals in the team’s last 10 games.
Then Henrik Lundqvist bailed out his teammates at key moments and in a one-sided third period.
A key challenge of a disallowed first-period Boston goal changed momentum in a big way, and while the Rangers (42-24-8, 92 points) benefited from a ticky-tack penalty call early, they earned this win by starting on their toes and managing the puck well early.
Tanner Glass got the crowd into it in the first by crushing Bruins forward Matt Beleskey, who broke a couple of Stepan’s ribs earlier this season on a late hit. Glass then won a quick fight with a right to Beleskey’s face. J.T. Miller (goal) also showed a physical edge by burying Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara as the towering 6-foot-9 blue liner bent down to chip a puck in the second period.
Ex-Ranger Lee Stempniak could have a hat trick, but his first-period goal that would have tied the game at one apiece was disallowed after Vigneault challenged correctly that Boston forward Brad Marchand had been offside. Then Lundqvist denied Stempniak’s third-period rebound with his glove, and a video review ruled insufficient evidence to call the halfway-across puck in.
Stepan scored on the power play to piggyback on Zuccarello’s earlier finish for a 2-0 lead 11:39 in. The Rangers led 3-0 on Derick Brassard’s even-strength slapper off the rush 5:26 into the second period and 3-1 after two periods after Stempniak’s lone tally at 9:34.
Boston, which replaced starting goalie Tuukka Rask (undisclosed ailment) with backup Jonas Gustavsson after the first period, dominated the third period as the Blueshirts predictably hunkered down. But for a second game in a row, the Rangers got a big third-period goal, this time from Miller at 6:32 off assists from linemates Stepan and Zuccarello.
Bruins forward Frank Vatrano scored at 12:06. The line on the ice of Chris Kreider, Eric Staal and Kevin Hayes, with defensive pair Yandle and Dan Girardi, was Vigneault’s only line that didn’t have a very good night. Vigneault for some reason scratched Oscar Lindberg for a fifth straight game in favor of Hayes, who is defensively deficient.
This team has a 37-3-2 record when allowing two goals or fewer and a 5-21-6 mark when giving up three or more. Playing Hayes over Lindberg doesn’t make sense. Hayes also is much better at center but is now regressing back on the wing with Staal in the middle since his deadline acquisition from Carolina.
All-league Bruins center Patrice Bergeron had a glorious chance on the doorstep with three minutes to play that would have narrowed it to 4-3 – with the same five Rangers on the ice. But Lundqvist gloved it and Rick Nash scored an empty-netter seven seconds later to ice the game.