J.T. Miller’s crushing hit on towering Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara didn’t even make the score sheet of the Rangers’ 5-2 win at the Garden on Wednesday night due to an offside whistle. But the 6-1, 205-pound Miller sent a message by burying the crouching 6-9, 250-pound Chara — and by standing up to an angry Chara after.
“I don’t know. I kind of blacked out there,” Miller said with a smirk, after the Blueshirts rode two power play goals and Henrik Lundqvist’s 39 saves to a second straight home victory. “I just tried to make sure I hit him and didn’t back down from the big man. He was falling down. That’s the only way he went down.”
It may have taken all Miller had to stand his ground as Chara rose from the ice to retaliate, but that’s the point: Miller didn’t budge. “He probably doesn’t get knocked over often, I guess, so he probably got a little pissed off,” Miller said. “But they’re down in the game so he’s probably trying to get something going, as well — not with me, hopefully.”
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.
The Rangers (42-24-8, 92 points) earned a lighter mood with a heavy and assertive start that gave way to elite skill and goaltending for closure. Fourth-liner Tanner Glass, unfairly ridiculed his entire Ranger career by the uninformed Twitter-sphere, received one of his biggest ovations ever from the Garden crowd 6:35 into the first period. Glass smoked Bruins forward Matt Beleskey, who broke Derek Stepan’s ribs with a dirty hit in Boston on Nov. 27. Then Glass ended a quick fight with a hard right to Beleskey’s face. “Tanner was a force tonight,” Miller said. “He was making every defender think twice. He was a big part of the forecheck.”
Rangers’ Tanner Glass levels Bruins’ Matt Beleskey in the first period.
Power play captain Keith Yandle blazed to primary assists on both first-period power play goals by Mats Zuccarello (goal, assist) and Derek Stepan (goal, two assists). Yandle said the man advantage, which has eight goals in the last 10 games, has stopped being “too cute” and started thinking “shoot first.” Stepan’s goal was made possible by a bad holding call on Boston’s David Krejci, but that’s the NHL’s inconsistent officiating.
Boston’s Lee Stempniak (goal) had a first-period goal disallowed — after Rangers video coach Jerry Dineen alerted Alain Vigneault to challenge for offside — and a third-period try nullified by one of Lundqvist’s 17 third-period saves.
Derick Brassard extended the lead to 3-0 at 5:26 of the second period off the rush with a laser beam past Jonas Gustavsson (13 saves), who replaced ill starter Tuukka Rask (six saves) after the first. Miller’s insurance goal for 6:32 into the third for a 4-1 lead made Bruins forward Frank Vatrano’s goal at 12:06 more palatable. Rick Nash added an empty-netter after Lundqvist stood on his head. “I like the way we are focusing in on the details right now,” Lundqvist said. “It’s helping us.”