MONTREAL — The Rangers always seem to bring the drama whenever they come north to this wonderful French-Canadian metropolis.
So as the snow covered the streets and dusted the buildings to make it look like Christmas, the Blueshirts delivered a gift as they took a 5-2 win over the Canadiens on Thursday night at Bell Centre. They erased a 2-0 deficit with five unanswered goals — not quite the epic comeback of Nov. 23, when they were down 4-0 and their season was about to be swallowed alive.
But it was something to behold as the Rangers (35-24-4) fought through a desultory opening 37 minutes to extend their franchise-best road winning streak to nine games. Overall, it was their ninth win in their past 10 games, their 12th win in their past 15. And with 74 points (tied with the idle Hurricanes), the Rangers pulled within two points of the idle Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot.
“We want to make the playoffs,” said Ryan Strome, who scored on a power-play tip-in with 4:37 left in regulation to make it 4-2, then added an empty-netter to finish things off. “We have to take care of business like we’ve been doing. I think we’ve come with a pretty good mindset. I think we’re focused, but we’re also staying pretty light in here as a group.
“Listen, we just want to make this thing interesting. We want to play meaningful games.”
The locker room was full of laughs, as Ryan Lindgren (two assists) and Adam Fox (goal and assist) drew the ribbing of their teammates for feeding the storyline of their connectedness by doing a postgame television interview together. But the rookie blue-line duo was terrific again, with Fox overcoming an awful start to set up Phillip Di Giuseppe’s first goal as a Ranger at 18:34 of the second to begin the comeback, then adding one of his own at 12:21 of the third that stood as the game-winner.
“He continues to play at an elite level,” coach David Quinn said of the 22-year-old from Long Island. “People talk about all these rookie of the year candidates, and I don’t hear his name enough.”
Alexandar Georgiev is now becoming the common name Quinn puts in the starting lineup, as the goalie started the 4-3 overtime win against the Islanders on Tuesday, put up 32 saves in this one — including some gems in the first two periods — and will start again in Philadelphia on the second leg of this road back-to-back on Friday night.
“He was immense,” Quinn said. “He made some big saves in the first period when we were really sluggish.”
Luckily for the Quinn’s club, the Canadiens (29-28-9) lack firepower, so they couldn’t make them pay more than the bad bounce of Fox’s skate that gave Max Domi a goal 3:12 into the game, and then a Tomas Tatar breakaway at 17:01 of the second to make it 2-0. But that was about the time the Quinn put his two best forwards together, the combination of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad waking everyone up a little.
“Our third and fourth lines were really good for the first two periods and our top two lines stunk,” Quinn said. “We’re not going anywhere when our top two lines play the way they did in the first two periods.”
Panarin then set up Zibanejad for goal at 11:06 of the third to tie it, 2-2, before Fox’s long shot snuck through a Chris Kreider screen 75 seconds later to give the Rangers the lead.
“It wasn’t working today, and to change it up, that never hurts,” said Zibanejad, whose points streak was extended to nine games while Panarin’s went to 11. “Just play hockey — played harder, worked harder, and played faster. And you saw the result of that.”
Three months ago, before that first comeback at Bell Centre, the Rangers were letting bad starts turn into blowout losses. But, as Strome pointed out, “I guess in this league you’re judged by how bad is your bad. I think we’ve raised our floor up a little bit.”
Maybe the Rangers don’t always want the drama, but they have found the recent results to be just beautiful.