November 30, 2019 | 4:00pm | Updated November 30, 2019 | 6:54pm
As David Quinn has mentioned before, when the Rangers do something, they do it big.
They’ve lost big, and they’ve won big. They’ve been physical, and they’ve been unengaged. They’ve won games with special teams and goaltending, and they’ve had those two aspects lose them games, too.
It’s all part of the growing process for this young squad.
So it’s fitting that after they had a power-play stinker (0-for-6) in Boston on Black Friday, they would come back to score a power-play goal on their first chance and add two shorthanded goals to beat the discombobulated Devils, 4-0, in Newark on Saturday afternoon.
“You go from extreme to another, which tends to be our habit, no matter what topic it is,” said Quinn, whose team took eight penalties for a total of 15:00 of man-down time. “We go from one penalty [Friday] to [eight] today, and an abundance of minutes. Just a gutsy effort.”
The Rangers (13-9-3) are now riding a five-game points streak, the 3-2 overtime loss to the terrific Bruins as the only blight. The penalty kill that was once the bane of their existence dominated against the horrid man-advantage of the Devils (9-12-4), with Mika Zibanejad scoring his second shorthanded goal of the season at 2:35 of the third, and Jesper Fast adding another just over three minutes later to make it 3-0.
It brought many in the sold-out crowd of 16,514 to start chanting for the head of Devils coach John Hynes, which has been a theme despite a roster that is chock-full of problems. The Devils were missing No. 1-overall pick Jack Hughes, who was hurt blocking a shot in Montreal on Thanksgiving. P.K. Subban has seemingly turned into a shell of himself, and was not on either power-play unit for any of the first six chances. The goaltending situations remains murky with Mackenzie Blackwood as the de facto starter. And the rumors about past MVP Taylor Hall’s future with the organization are gaining intensity.
So maybe the Rangers didn’t need Alex Georgiev to stand on his head to record 33 saves for the third shutout of his career, but it was a group effort the Blueshirts were proud of nonetheless.
“We really won the game on the [penalty-kill] — not just scoring, but not letting them score,” said Zibanejad, who hasn’t missed a beat in his three games back following a month-long absence due to an upper-body injury. “Special teams, a lot of the games come down to that. And we won both areas, so that’s good.”
With all of the penalties, it was a disjointed game from the start. But when Pavel Zacha took a holding penalty midway through the first, the Rangers struck. Kaapo Kakko, playing his most assertive game in a while, made a slick cross-ice pass to Adam Fox on the back post, and Fox redirected it behind Blackwood for a 1-0 lead.
Then the Rangers’ march to the penalty box started in earnest — including another too-many-men, this one more a result of bad timing rather than a lack of focus, thus keeping Quinn’s head from exploding. Libor Hajek was called for a double-minor high-stick late in the second. When the Rangers opened the third period a man down, Zibanejad struck on a nice odd-man rush with Brendan Lemieux.
Then, after Chris Kreider was called for a boarding major at 5:21, Fast struck, finishing on a rare shorthanded 3-on-1 odd-man rush, started by Jacob Trouba with a slick first assist to Zibanejad.
“What a great opportunity there,” Hall said, “but we drained all the life out of our building and out of our team.”
When Brady Skjei then attempted to clear the zone late in the game, it bounced into the empty net — an appropriate ending for the Rangers, who can’t even win with subtlety.
“We hung in there,” Zibanejad said. “I thought it was a good effort, even though all the penalties.”