Rangers ride emotion of tragedy in NYC to victory

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[November 01, 2017]  NEW YORK -- When the New York Rangers were preparing to face the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, there were a lot of things working in their favor.

The Knights were playing the second half of a back-to-back on the road for the first time in franchise history, a history that began only a few months ago. They were also down to their fourth-string goaltender after an injury to their third-stringer Monday night. All signs pointed to an easy, much-needed Rangers victory at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers got the victory, but it was anything but easy, for reasons on the ice and off it.

Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists in the third period as the Rangers erased a two-goal deficit in the final 20 minutes to defeat the Knights 6-4 on an emotional day in New York that had players distracted in the hours leading to the game.

A terror attack in lower Manhattan early in the afternoon -- an area frequented by many Rangers players and their families -- cast a pall over the proceedings at MSG a few hours later. The incident was on the minds of the players before they took the ice for the game.

"I'm super happy that we got the win, especially with the situation from earlier today," Zibanejad said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families. It's a horrible, horrible thing. We talked about that; it was bigger than two points. We were trying to play for the whole city and for all the families involved, and we were able to do that."

"It was emotional for me," said New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves. "Before the game, I talked to the group a little bit about the importance of this game. For me, my family is in that area every day, and coming to the game not knowing if they were safe or not, it was not a good feeling."

The Rangers jumped to an early lead, as Jimmy Vesey scored 2:45 into the contest to make it 1-0, but Oscar Lindberg and Reilly Smith answered to send the Knights to the first intermission ahead 2-1.

Mats Zuccarello tied the game 1:29 into the second period, but Smith (off a rebound) and David Perron (on a penalty shot) gave the Knights a 4-2 advantage heading into the final period.

Things looked dire for the home team when Michael Grabner was whistled for goaltender interference 2:21 into the third period, but the Knights failed to score what likely would have been the goal that broke the Rangers. Instead, Perron opened the door by taking two tripping penalties in the same sequence to give the Rangers a four-minute power play.

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 Rangers center David Desharnais (51) takes a shot while Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) defends during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

"The four-minute penalty, obviously that was the turning point, when they scored a goal on that," Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "Then we stopped playing, let them attack and we didn't attack them."

Perron said, "I kind of let the team down on that one, but we have to keep finding ways to improve."

Chris Kreider scored on the first half of Perron's double minor at 5:31, and Pavel Buchnevich tied the game at even strength at 9:26. That set the stage for Zibanejad, who ripped a shot that ricocheted off the knob of the stick of Maxime Lagace, who made 32 saves in his first NHL start, and into the net to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead at 14:11.

Grabner's empty-net goal with 1:14 to play sealed what could be the biggest the win of the season for New York (4-7-2). The Rangers will try to build on it as they prepare to take a two-game road trip to Florida to face the Lightning and Panthers this week.

"I think our group proved that there's no quit," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "There was a lot of emotion in the dressing room before the game with what happened today. A lot of our players live around there.

"There are some pieces of our game that are real good, others are not Picassos. We're trying to put it together, we're trying to work hard. We'll take the two points tonight and move on to (Tampa)."

NOTES: The Golden Knights recalled G Dylan Ferguson from Kamloops of the WHL on an emergency basis after placing G Oscar Dansk (lower body) on injured reserve. Dansk got hurt Monday night in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders. ... Golden Knights G Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) is considered day-to-day. ... Rangers D Brady Skjei played in his 100th career regular-season game. ... Rangers D Nick Holden was a healthy scratch. ... There was a moment of silence before the game to recognize loss of life due to the attack that took place in lower Manhattan earlier in the day.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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