NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers are starting to make a stretch run, and they are doing it with a couple of key players sidelined.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves and the Rangers posted their first three-game winning streak since November with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
What made the win so impressive was that New York turned in one of its top performances in a long time despite playing without captain Ryan McDonagh (concussion) and forward Rick Nash (bone bruise).
“The way we are playing, it’s paying off in different ways,” Lundqvist said. “Guys are playing really well and scoring big goals at the right time, and as a group, I feel like we are doing a lot of good things.”
The Rangers were exceptional with their forechecking, either pinning the Devils in their own end or making steals to set up scoring chances.
Kevin Klein, who broke a thumb last week, scored for the first time in 28 games and the streaking J.T. Miller scored for the ninth time in 10 games while the Rangers beat the Devils for the first time in three games this season.
This win was New York’s fifth straight victory at Madison Square Garden, and the Rangers are 7-3 in their last 10 overall.
“What we did tonight was everyone just kind of stepped up and ate a few more minutes out there,” veteran Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “We weren’t too flashy out there. We kept is simple, kept the play in their end as long as we could. It was a good effort.”
Cory Schneider made 35 saves for New Jersey, which lost its third straight (0-1-2). Travis Zajac scored a short-handed goal with 2:17 left to spoil Lundqvist’s shutout bid.
“In the end we showed some signs of life,” Schneider said. “We made it a game when short-handed no less. We didn’t give up, but I think we waited about 50 minutes too long to have that urgency and drive.”
While the score was close, the Rangers totally outplayed New Jersey in what was a test with McDonagh and Nash out.
Zajac scored with the Rangers on their fifth fruitless power play. That and Schneider’s goaltending made the final minutes interesting.
After Zajac scored on a 2-on-1 with Adam Henrique, Lundqvist had to make a skate save on Lee Stempniak to keep New York ahead.
Lundqvist had a relatively easy night before that. His best saves came late in the second period. He stopped Reid Boucher 1-on-1 after the forward was set up by Zajac. The Swede also stopped a flurry with less than six minutes left in the third, making a pad save on defenseman Andy Greene on a shot from inside the right circle.
Klein broke his right thumb late in a loss to the Devils on Tuesday and then sat out one game. He got his first goal since Nov. 3 and fourth of the season early in the second period.
“He’s a real strong guy and he is obviously playing through something right now,” Girardi said of Klein. “He shows the guys how much he wants to win and everyone follows that lead. We are all rallying around everyone here, trying to put a few wins together. It feels good.”
Mats Zuccarello did most of the work on Klein’s goal. He got between two Devils for a loose puck along the right boards, cut across the crease and found Klein in the left circle for a shot into an open net. Marc Staal got his first assist in 18 games on the play.
Miller extended his career-best goal total to 17 when he scored at 4:37 of the third period. He took a drop pass from Derick Brassard and beat Schneider.
“Tonight is one of those examples where I am just trying to get the puck on net,” Miller said. “I’m really not thinking about scoring from there and it happens to go in.”
Schneider withstood two Rangers’ power plays and 17 shots in a scoreless first period. Derek Stepan had a breakaway in the period and Keith Yandle had four of the seven shots by New York’s defensemen.
“It’s a stinker. There’s nothing you can take from this game,” Devils defenseman John Moore said.
NOTES: Rangers C Kevin Hayes was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty during a power play for pitch-forking a broken stick over the glass into the stands. … D Damon Severson and Fs Stefan Matteau and Tuomo Ruutu were healthy scratches for the Devils. … New Jersey will retire goaltender Marty Brodeur’s jersey on Tuesday. … D Dan Girardi skated in his 698th career game with the Rangers, tying Mark Messier and Steve Vickers for 11th place on the franchise’s career games played list. … With McDonagh missing the game, only Miller, Staal, Zuccarello and Yandle have played in all 53 games for the Rangers. … The Devils have not beaten the Rangers three times in a row since 2013.