When it comes to gaining momentum for the upcoming NHL playoffs, maybe all the New York Rangers need is a little rest, relaxation…and wins…in the California sun.
Antti Raanta made 30 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season, while Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash all had goals, and the Rangers opened a three-game California swing with a 3-0 win on Saturday night at Staples Center.
The Rangers (46-25-4) got off to a good start on their road trip with timely scores and solid goaltending from Raanta, whose made his eight consecutive start in the relief of the injured Henrik Lundqvist, a streak that is expected to end with Lundqvist stated to start the next stage of the trip against Anaheim. Raanta closed out the longest consecutive start streak of his career with some big saves, primarily in the third period that saw the Rangers kill off three penalties, having a good special teams night, especially in the penalty kill, an area where they’ve recently struggled.
After a scoreless first, the Rangers scored the only goal they needed in the second, with Derek Stepan putting one past Jonathan Quick for the 1-0 lead. Early in the third period, the Kings (35-32-7) took a double minor penalty, as Andy Andreoff was called for high sticking Pavel Buchnevich. McDonagh capitalized immediately, scoring just four seconds into the man advantage with his sixth goal of the season. The Rangers have now scored a power play goal in six of their past eight games, converting on 8 of their past 24 opportunities. Los Angeles threatened, but Raanta held strong before Rick Nash put on in an empty net for his 21st of the season, scoring a goal for a third consecutive game.
With the win, the Rangers improved to 21-5-0 against Western Conference competition this season, completing their first regular season sweep of Los Angeles since 2011 (albeit when the teams only met once). Raanta also became the first Rangers goaltender to record a shutout in Los Angeles since Wayne Thomas did so in 1978.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490