Two struggling teams hungry for a win met at the Garden on Monday.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Rangers eventually satisfied their hunger, at least for one night.
After coughing up three leads and then falling behind, the Rangers saved their best hockey for the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to cruise to a 6-4 victory over the Blues.
At 8:16 of the third period, Mika Zibanejad’s shot was deflected by Alexis Lafreniere to give the Rangers the lead for good. Lafreniere started the night on the third line but ended it on the top line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko, which paid off for coach Gerard Gallant.
Chris Kreider then added a shorthanded insurance layup at 14:04 to give the Rangers a two-goal lead they hadn’t held all night.
The Rangers (12-10-5) improve to 2-4-1 in their last seven games, while the Blue Jays (11-14-0) fall to 1-6-0 in their last seven.
Even though they led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, Rangers managed just 12 shots on goal in the first two periods and trailed 4-3. the third fell behind. But they responded in a big way, scoring 12 shots in the final 20 minutes to win.
K’Andre Miller found the right timing for his first goal of the year, firing a shot from inside the blue line past Jordan Binnington at 4:48 of the third period to make it 4-4.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead (from Braden Schneider) just 70 seconds into the first half when former Blueshirt Pavel Buchnevich tied it. But Adam Fox answered before halftime, scoring six seconds into the power play for a 2-1 lead.
That lead was even shorter than the first, this time lasting 40 seconds, as the Blues capitalized on poor puck handling by Rangers that allowed Vladimir Tarasenko to tap in a shot that deflected off Fox’s stick to tie it at 2-2. 12 seconds into the second period.
The Rangers responded quickly again, less than a minute later, Vincent Trocheck headed home Artemi Panarin’s shot to make it 3-2.
But after Rangers squandered several short chances – including Kakko’s final touch with a slick deke – the Blues tied it midway through the period with a goal from Jordan Kirou.
The Blues then took their first lead of the game just over a minute later at 12:33 when Ryan O’Reilly put it back for a 4-3 advantage. As the final seconds of the game ticked away, the Rangers fans erupted in cheers.