BOSTON – Penalty killing was one of the biggest weaknesses for the Rangers last season as they finished with a fifth-worst 78.2 kill percentage. They also managed just three shorthanded goals all season.
They got two-thirds of the way there Saturday night alone as the Rangers netted two shorthanded goals in their 5-2 win over the Bruins at TD Garden. Derek Stepan’s first goal of the season came shorthanded and gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 2:01 left in the first, and Kevin Hayes added another at 2:18 of the second, his fifth goal of the season. Stepan added two assists while the Rangers went 3-for-3 on the kill.
Antti Raanta stood mighty tall in making 35 saves and has won all three of his starts, while the Rangers handed Boston’s Tuukka Rask his first loss in seven starts. Rookie Pavel Buchnevich scored his first career goal on a third-period power play and Nick Holden scored his first as a Ranger. Michael Grabner scored his team-best seventh goal to ice the game with 3:12 left.
The Rangers (9-3) have won four straight and seven of their last eight. The last time they had multiple shorthanded goals in a game was March 30, 2014 via Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello.
Alain Vigneault and new defensive assistant Jeff Beukeboom have altered the team’s penalty kill this season to allow for more aggressiveness, and so far the Rangers’ kill has shown improvement. They’re 28-for-34 (82.4 percent) this season.
“This is a process here. It’s something that won’t happen overnight,” Vigneault said before the game. “It’s definitely an area that we talked to our group since Day One about improvement. Beuk is spending a lot of time with our personnel. We’ve got quite a few of our personnel that it’s their first experience as far as penalty killing and getting used to the way we’re thinking of being better this year. It’s a work in progress. I’m confident it’s going to improve and get in the top 10, which is one of our goals.”
Kevin Hayes has 11 points for the season.
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The win marked the fifth time this season the Rangers have won despite conceding the first goal of the game. Patrice Bergeron scored 3:44 into the game when the Rangers turned the puck over behind their own net and Stepan didn’t pick Bergeron up in the slot, allowing him to finish off Brad Marchand’s feed.
Holden tied the game at 15:09 of the first, lobbing a soft shot from the blue line which deflected off David Krejci’s extended glove and past Rask.
Stepan’s goal began when Girardi broke up a Marchand pass in the slot and Michael Grabner smacked a midair puck off the boards, creating a two-on-one. Grabner fed Stepan, whose initial shot was stopped but the ricochet went off Stepan’s right skate and in.
Hayes had a three-on-one after Marc Staal’s blue-line to blue-line pass and opted to shoot, giving him 11 points for the season. The Rangers nearly had another shorthanded goal 40 seconds later but Michael Grabner missed the net on a 2-on-0. Grabner didn’t miss in the third when he stole the puck at the red line, took it into Boston’s zone and fired home the final goal.
A puck nearly trickled over Raanta’s goal line early in the third but Girardi cleared it off the goal line. Boston got its second goal with 5:13 left in the game, 1:11 after Buchnevich’s goal, as David Pastrnak deflected Riley Nash’s shot by Raanta.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News