VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Even on a night where they spent far too much time in their own end, the Rangers have proven they will go as far as their special teams play, goaltending and sheer resilience will take them.
It was all three that allowed the Blueshirts to capture a 4-3 win over the Canucks in a Hockey Night in Canada matchup on Saturday at Rogers Arena in which K’Andre Miller scored his first goal of the season in overtime to extend his team’s winning streak to four straight games heading into the final contest of their west-coast swing.
“Crazy game,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the win, which improved the Rangers to 6-2-0. “Good ending for us, but it’s just a night that was dominated by specialty teams and some odd stuff that we had to deal with throughout the course of the game. I like the fact that we stayed in it, kept battling.
“Even going back to [when it was] 3-3, we got a couple big saves [from Igor Shesterkin], and we were able to pull it out in the end. Big win on the road.”
A Rangers four-minute power play, earned after Mika Zibanejad bled from a high stick he took to the face in the third period, jump-started a flurry of action in the final minutes of regulation.
The Rangers ultimately scored twice in the span of less than a minute, one from Adam Fox during a five-on-three advantage and the other from Zibanejad for his first goal of the season, but not before the home team scored a shorthanded goal off the stick of Tyler Myer to take their first lead of the night at 2-1.
As had been the case all game, however, the Rangers gifted Vancouver another power play when Filip Chytil was sent to the box for closing his hand on the puck.
Carson Soucy capitalized for the Canucks with a hard slap shot to force overtime.
Fox noted the Rangers didn’t get down after the shorthanded goal, or the tying score from Soucy.
They also never really faltered throughout the chaos of the third period or the Canucks’ push in over time. It only took one opportunity to capitalize, and the Rangers didn’t let it pass them by.
“It’s hard to assess, with all the penalties going back and forth, there’s no rhythm,” said Mika Zibanejad, who finished with three points (one goal, two assists) that all came on the power play. “Just got to make the best out of that situation, honestly. At times, we did, at times we didn’t.
“Kind of went back and forth depending on the penalty kill and the power play, whoever got the momentum from it.”
Facing an opponent that was skating on the second night of a back-to-back, the Rangers simply cut the Canucks a break by giving the home team six power-play opportunities, as well as some extended possession time.
Though all three of the Rangers regulation goals came on the power play, including Artemi Panarin’s in the first period (scored on a five-on- three advantage) extended his point streak to eight games, so the special teams battle swung in the visitor’s favor.
Laviolette has noted the Rangers have spent a bit too much time in their own end at times this season, particularly in situations when they have the lead.
Such was the case Saturday night. Carrying a 1-0 lead into the second period, the Rangers found themselves on their heels while the Canucks pinned them in their own zone and created opportunities to test Shesterkin.
The middle frame was one of the Rangers’ sloppiest 20 minutes of the season thus far, but the Canucks were able to notch just one goal from former Blueshirts J.T. Miller, who tipped one in on the power play to knot the game at one-all.
Though the Rangers have fallen victim to some extended shifts in the defensive zone this season, the team has shown an unrelenting commitment to blocking shots and using their sticks to disrupt as much as possible.
The Rangers finished with 18 blocks, with Nick Bonino leading all skaters on the ice with five.
“We were in our D zone a little bit more, we want to be able to defend well, but we don’t want to have to defend that much,” Fox said. “But guys are committed. I think guys are really bought in and it’s a team effort. It’s not one guy, two guys. I think we appreciate blocked shots just as much as a big goal, a big assist, big hit, big save. Everyone’s contributing.”