The Rangers mob Kevin Klein after he scores the game-winning and lone goal of the game in overtime.
Alain Vigneault’s recent admission that the Rangers were “outworked” in Thursday night’s win in Toronto was a rare but honest indictment of his players’ work ethic.
Sunday night’s 1-0 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Garden easily could have gone the other way, but it didn’t because the Blueshirts circled back to the trademark diligence that has strong-armed so many results their way in the second half of this season.
“We earned this one,” Henrik Lundqvist (22 saves) said after his second shutout in his last four starts.
Kevin Klein scored the OT winner off a slick Kevin Hayes feed at 1:59, after Chris Kreider cleared a trickling rebound from behind Lundqvist in the crease. But two other players set the tone: Defenseman Marc Staal controlled the ice in a team-high 25:03 of time with captain Ryan McDonagh (neck spasms, bruised jaw) sidelined, while Swedish forward Jesper Fast imposed himself everywhere else.
Fast tipped a Staal shot on nearly unbeatable Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (29 saves) at 9:46 of the third. He drew a penalty shot off a beautiful Keith Yandle stretch pass that Howard denied with the right pad at 14:35. He won pucks all over and again was robbed by Howard in close off a Derick Brassard feed at 16:16.
Rangers’ Oscar Lindbergh (l.) and Red Wings’ Brendan Smith (r.) battle for the puck.
This wasn’t a player blowing scoring chances, though. It was one of Vigneault’s most reliable and hardest working forwards on full display, featured on
the top line with J.T. Miller and Brassard as well as the top penalty kill (3:58 ice time) and second power play (3:32). Vigneault trusts him everywhere.
“I think everyone had him pegged as a grinder, a penalty killer,” Miller said of Fast. “But I played with him in Hartford and I know he can do that, but he does everything else, too. It’s good to see that his well-rounded nature as a player is starting to show.”
Hayes played a big role, too. He seemingly gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 5:52 into the third on a side-angle shot, but Detroit challenged and the goal was disallowed because forward Oscar Lindberg’s skate kicked up into Howard’s mask.
Henrik Lundqvist stops 22 shots as he records another shutout.
Lindberg’s second-period hustle on a back-check saved a goal against, too, though. At 6:33 of the second, Lundqvist denied consecutive shots off the rush from Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou and Brendan Smith with quick reflexes, and Lindberg forced Teemu Pulkkinen’s attempt on the second rebound wide.
The power play went 0-for-4, but the penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4, and the Rangers (34-19-6, 74 points) won their second straight to improve to 8-3-1 in 12 straight games without injured forward Rick Nash (left leg bone bruise). They are also 6-0-1 in seven games without McDonagh, including the games against Philadelphia and Toronto in which their captain was injured in the first period.
The Red Wings (29-20-11, 69 points) hit a few posts thanks to center Pavel Datsyuk, who reminded everyone why he is nicknamed The Magic Man. Miller called Datsyuk “one of a kind.” The Rangers, though, did not let even one through.
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