Anaheim’s Corey Perry and the Rangers’ Marc Staal give chase to the puck as the Blushirts grind out a physical 2-1 win Wednesday night.
ANAHEIM — Wednesday night’s West Coast slugfest fittingly saw the referees swallow their whistles and leave the result up to the Rangers and Ducks, which becomes commonplace in the more physical NHL postseason that the Blueshirts hope to navigate completely once and for all this spring.
So Kevin Klein’s career-high two goals for a 2-1 comeback win at Honda Center sealed a satisfying and much-needed response to the Rangers’ two-game losing streak last weekend, which concluded with a 5-3 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that featured a worrisome lack of urgency and execution.
Ryan McDonagh was hit in the face at the buzzer by a Cam Fowler desperation slap shot and was down on ice for several seconds receiving the trainers’ attention, but eventually he got to his feet to celebrate the victory with goalie Antti Raanta (22 saves).
Henrik Lundqvist will start Thursday night against the L.A. Kings at Staples Center to conclude this back-to-back, and Saturday afternoon in San Jose.
Sunday’s loss to the Pens, combined by the Islanders’ brief jump of the Rangers (40-23-7, 87 points) into second place in the division on Tuesday, refreshingly had the appropriate effect on Alain Vigneault’s players.
They tightened up defensively and hardly gave up any Grade-A scoring chances to the Ducks (38-22-9, 85 points), who have been the league’s best team in the second half of the season.
“Other than me giving the puck away at the end,” said Mats Zuccarello with a grin, “we had a solid game from the whole team, and that’s what we need. This is how you get a win with everyone chipping in on defense.”
Klein drove the net to tap-in an Eric Staal feed off the rush at 13:19 of the third period to snap a 1-1 tie that lasted since Klein’s first goal at 3:11 of the second.
Kevin Klein gets some love after one of his two goals in the game.
Klein redeemed himself for a critical first-period turnover. Ducks forward Corey Perry picked Klein’s pocket and fed Jamie McGinn in the slot for an easy 1-0 lead at 14:03.
“(Perry) made a great play,” said Klein. “You have to tip your hat to him, but I wanted to redeem myself. I wasn’t expecting to get the second one, but Big E (Eric Staal) made a great play.”
Fourth-line center Dominic Moore responded in a big way to Sunday’s benching for the final 27:13 against Pittsburgh, winning battles and assisting on Klein’s game-tying goal by setting up Tanner Glass’ initial shot on Anaheim’s John Gibson (21 saves) that created a rebound.
Kevin Hayes also showed more fight and hustle after being benched for the final 24:05 of Sunday’s loss at the Garden. Vigneault urged that “we expect (Hayes) to play better than he has the last couple games.”
Objectively, both the ice and officiating were horrible. The puck skipped on both teams all night, and the crew headed by referees Tim Peel and Greg Kimmerly all but refused to whistle the Ducks for blatant penalties. The Rangers had the only three power plays of the night but went 0-for-3.
Rangers president Glen Sather watched from the press box with club senior advisor Mike Barnett and consultant Doug Risebrough (former Minnesota Wild GM).
Rick Nash had two good scoring chances set up by Moore and Zuccarello, reunited on a line with center Derick Brassard that didn’t do much else offensively. But Nash made an excellent back-check after an early-third period mishandle by Dan Boyle and helped protect the one-goal lead late.