ST. PAUL, Minn. – Whether it's a game or a playoff race, the Rangers never believe they're not there.
The truth about it under the pressure of the postseason has yet to be determined, but the blueshirts showed their tenacity again when they achieved a dramatic 4-3 win over the wilderness on Thursday evening.
After Mika Zibanejad made it onto the bench with goalkeeper Alexandar Georgiev for the additional attacker and 66 seconds before the end of regular time, Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin both scored in the skill competition, while Ryan Donato and Zach Parise failed for Minnesota for the To give Rangers their first three. Game winning streak since Thanksgiving.
"It's exactly this time of year," said Ryan Strome. "We are aware of our situation. I think 10 days until [Feb. 24] Close of trading and obviously the upcoming playoffs and where we are in the overall standings. "
The Rangers (29-23-4) stayed nine points from the second placeholder in the Eastern Conference, but they already saw the second leg of this duel and the final of this three-game game on Friday night's trip to Columbus as a major impact competition the overall rating. While this match against the wild (27-23-7) was a test of playing a large, physical team that defended well – not exactly the Rangers' strength.
"The leaderboard is what it is, but this team is a tough team, they play physically, as you can see, and it is difficult to reach these guys from the inside," said Strome. "I thought we did a good job of being patient."
There was mental patience not to be overly concerned when goals from Donato, Jonas Brodin and Jordan Greenway buried Panarin's 29th season to take Minnesota 3-1 in the third half. But Pavel Buchnevich only threw a puck into the net and he bounced around before going 3-2 at 11:51 a.m. of the third.
And then Zibanejad cleverly rerouted a great Panarin feed. The puck slowly passed goalkeeper Alex Stalock and came from the right post to tie him.
"It was a great pass," said Zibanejad. "I've never seen a puck that went online so slowly."
Georgiev made some big stops in the 3v3 extension so his team could get to the shootout – in which he didn't even have to touch a puck as Donato lost control before the shoot and Parises backhand clanked against the crossbar. There was a review of Panarin's balance sheet as it almost stopped.
But it has been confirmed, and the Rangers' ability to come back has put them on the best streak in over three months.
"It's a great win for us," said Strome, "and it's time to move on."