SAN JOSE (AP) — After three straight losses to open their road trip, the New York Rangers head into the All-Star break on a high note thanks to an unlikely goal scorer.
Ryan McDonagh scored his first two goals of the season and J.T. Miller added a goal and two assists that helped the New York Rangers salvage the final game of a four-game road trip by beating the San Jose Sharks 6-5 on Thursday night.
“The team needed that,” Miller said. “We’ve done a lot of good things over the road trip but the win category hasn’t been where we wanted. That’s a good way to cap it off and make it feel good going into the break.”
New York had been outscored 13-6 in losing the first three games of the trip with Miller getting benched for the final two periods in Anaheim on Tuesday night because of careless turnovers.
But the Rangers overcame a deficit in the second period with two goals from McDonagh and a short-handed tally from Brady Skjei. Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast also scored for New York, and Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves.
“I really believe that on this road trip we played better than our record indicates,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’re 1-3 but in all four games we had good starts. Somehow the second periods might have been a little bit more challenging, but tonight we found a way to get a real strong second. They came at us hard in the third but we were able to do what we needed to do.”
Logan Couture scored twice to give him 20 goals on the season. Barclay Goodrow, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Tomas Hertl also scored for San Jose, and Kevin Labanc had three assists.
Aaron Dell made 23 saves.
The Sharks played without star forward Joe Thornton, who will likely miss several weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his injured right knee earlier Thursday. This marked the first time San Jose played a game without Thornton or Patrick Marleau — who left for Toronto in free agency over the summer — since Jan. 21, 2004, at Arizona.
Couture did his best to overcome Thornton’s void, giving San Jose a 2-1 lead early in the second when he beat Pavelec from the slot after a good rush by Labanc.
But the Rangers erased that deficit with three goals from their defensemen in a span of just over six minutes. McDonagh struck twice in just 1:12 after scoring no goals in his first 44 games. Skjei added the insurance goal with the Sharks on the power play when Labanc cleared a rebound off Skjei’s leg and into the net.
“It’s a tough league to win in and then you lose a guy like Joe,” Couture said. “We have to step up and other guys have to take advantage of the opportunity. We created enough offense but we played bad defensive hockey. They could have scored more than six. We gave them way too much.”
Vlasic got the Sharks back within one goal midway through the third, but San Jose couldn’t manage the equalizer against Pavelec.
Miller then scored with 1:50 remaining to restore the two-goal lead which was crucial when Hertl scored with 49.7 seconds to play.
“It was a pretty sloppy game in general,” Vlasic said. “There were chances at both ends. We could have scored 10 and they could have scored 10 as well.”
The Rangers got a boost from Hayes, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with a leg injury. Brent Burns got caught too far up ice, allowing Hayes to take a pass from Miller and come in alone on Dell to beat him with a slap shot.
The Sharks answered with two goals before New York tied it again late in the period when Fast scored off a cross-ice pass from Michael Grabner.
NOTES: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McDonagh was the first Rangers defenseman to score two goals in a span of 72 seconds or fewer since James Patrick did it in 11 seconds on March 25, 1986, against New Jersey. … Burns’ assist on Goodrow’s goal extended his points streak to six straight games.
Sharks: Visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
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