The Rangers opted for their road white jerseys in the final home game of 2015 yesterday. Odd, because the Rangers are 6-7-3 away from Broadway this season.
Surprise! The away jerseys — worn at Madison Square Garden for the first time this season — may have been infused with some Christmas spirit, especially those worn by Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard.
Brassard converted two gifts from the Ducks in the first and third periods, but Richard Rakell, using Ryan McDonagh as a screen, tied the game at 2 with 2:54 left in regulation with a top-corner wrister over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove from the left circle.
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was called for holding McDonagh at 1:07 of overtime, and Dan Boyle fed Zuccarello in the right circle with 2:23 left for his team-leading 15th goal and 30th point that led to the 3-2 victory.
“This would be a big win for us going into the break,” Zuccarello aid before the game. “To win, we need everyone to be on their game. Everyone has to work hard. No excuses. We have four days off after this.”
When the Blueshirts (20-12-4, 44 points) return after the four-day Christmas break, they will have 46 games remaining in the hunt for the Stanley Cup playoffs. They are 14-5-1 at the Garden, which was filled with holiday revelers hoping that the Blueshirts would end their three-game losing streak.
About the overtime, Derek Stepan said: “At that point, our only focus was to find a way to get a win going into Christmas. Whether or not it builds momentum after Christmas or not, it certainly makes us feel good about ourselves. There’s certainly a lot of work that needs to be done. We have to get ready for a big push. We’ve got teams on our heels.”
In the first period, returnee Carl Hagelin, who was traded to the Ducks last summer, was greeted with hits from Chris Summers and Dylan McIlrath, and at 5:35, Tanner Glass dropped the gloves with Pat Maroon. When Boyle went off for holding at 7:05, the penalty killers did their job, but Corey Perry scooped up a loose puck in front after McDonagh and Marc Staal lost a battle behind the net, spun and fired high for a 1-0 lead at 11:16.
John Gibson stopped Dom Moore after he streaked around Fowler with 2:39 left, but the Rangers got the equalizer 20 seconds later. Brassard picked off a weak pass by Maroon deep in the Ducks zone and buried his 12th of the season for the tie. It was his 11th point in the past 12 games.
In their previous game at the Garden, the Rangers led the Capitals 3-1 after twenty minutes, then caved. The Capitals scored six straight goals.
Last night, neither team scored in the second. In fact, each squad had just five shots. A barnburner, it was not. The Rangers had two more power plays, with one shot in each of the three overall.
It seemed as if whichever team could limit their mistakes might grab two points on the evening. The Rangers fended off Kevin Hayes’ minor for hooking Hagelin at 33 seconds.
Then, unfortunately for the Ducks (12-16-5), it was Nate Thompson’s turn. His poor decision on a pass turned into a giveaway to Zuccarello in the defensive zone, which allowed the winger to feed Brassard on his right for his second goal of the night at 2:44 of the third and a 2-1 lead. Brassard has more goals (13), against the Ducks than any other opponent.
That marker made it a difficult climb for the Ducks, who have scored the fewest goals in the league (61)
Lundqvist, who was 2-1, a 1.63 goals-against-average, and a .943 save percentage in his last three games at home against Anaheim, made 17 saves.
Ending the losing streak brought him a sense of relief.
“You don’t want to create a monster where you can’t recover,” Lundqvist said. “We’re still in a pretty good spot.”