Karpin: Fast Turnaround Keeps Rangers’ Home Win Streak Alive

No matter what it took, the Rangers were not going to let their home winning streak end, even if they had to go to a shootout. It took a shootout goal from Jimmy Vesey to complete a come from behind, 4-3 win over the Canucks at the Garden Sunday afternoon, that extended the Rangers’ home winning streak to eight straight games.

Henrik Lundqvist made his 12th straight start and was not as spectacular as he was Friday night against Detroit but he was solid and came up with some clutch saves throughout regulation and into overtime and the shootout.

Late in the second period, the Rangers trailed Vancouver 2-0 and looked like they were playing a “matinee game.” The Blueshirts were, at times, lethargic and sloppy with the puck and just seemed to be a step behind the Canucks for the first 36 plus-minutes until Jesper Fast deflected a Nick Holden feed past Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom to put the Rangers on the board and change the momentum of the game. “Got a bounce off Vancouver’s stick and he (Fast) was there to put it in,” Vesey said. “It was definitely big.”

From there, the Rangers seemed to find their legs as they forced the action for the remainder of the second period and for most of the third. “That goal at the end of the second period helped us get some energy and start to make a couple of more plays in the third period,” coach Alain Vigneault said.

Michael Grabner made a play and tied the game at two with a soft goal just 19 seconds into the third period. Grabner broke in on left wing and flicked a wrist shot towards the net but Markstrom failed to snag it as the puck went off his glove and into the net for a 2-2 tie. The excitement was short lived as the Canucks regained the lead just 41 seconds later on a goal by Vancouver’s Sam Gagner that came as the result of a turnover.

At one point of the third period, the Rangers had as many shots on goal as blocked shots with 12, but the 13th shot was a charm. Vesey took a beautiful feed from Rick Nash and beat Markstrom with a nifty backhander to tie the game again. “I kinda know he’s (Vesey) there,” said Nash.

The Rangers hardly saw the puck in overtime and had no shots on goal. Lundqvist made three of his saves in overtime, as the Rangers had trouble getting out of their own zone until late in the extra session.

In the shootout, the Rangers chose to go second on the advice of Lundqvist. “I was gonna shoot first,” said Vigneault, “and Hank, he came to me and said ‘let them shoot first.’”

Vancouver took the lead twice in the shootout and twice, the Rangers answered to keep the game alive. First it was Kevin Shattenkirk who scored and then Nash tied it once again. It just so happened to be the 12th anniversary of Marek Malik’s famous, 15th round, between the legs, game winning, shootout goal but Shattenkirk was not thinking of that memorable finish when he took his shot. “I didn’t have it in my mind that I was gonna do it,” he said

This shootout did not go as long. Lundqvist stopped Vancouver defenseman Ben Sutton in the seventh round and Vesey ended it to give the Rangers their fourth straight win overall and 10th in their last 12 games.

Vesey earned the #1 star but Fast (who was the second star) provided a much needed spark and always seems to make a big play to help win a game. “That’s what kind of player he is,” Nash said after the game. “A character player.”

The soon to be 26-year old has become a valuable asset for the Rangers. Defense has been his strength but he’s starting to develop an offensive touch. This season, Fast has four goals and 12 points in 19 games.

The Swedish native seems to provide an “air of confidence” when he’s in the lineup and there’s a number to prove it. Including this season, Fast has played 235 NHL games and the Rangers are 140-95, a .590 winning percentage. Coincidence? Maybe not as his teammates have taken notice. “He’s been doing it a lot of years,” Nash said, “he goes to the hard areas, he blocks shots, he finishes his checks and he gets rewarded for going to the net.”

Sounds like a winning hockey player to me.

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