ST. LOUIS — At least the New Year will start on a good note.
The Rangers were able to hang on for a 2-1 win over the Blues here Monday night, sweeping their two-game trip and heading back to New York to celebrate the beginning of 2019 with some good feeling.
The Rangers (17-14-7) were coming off their first road win in regulation (or overtime), taking a 4-3 victory in Nashville on Saturday night to start this trip. They were still trying to dig their way out of the rut that was a run of 4-6-5 since Thanksgiving.
The Blues (15-18-4) were a disappointing team in their own right, having fired coach Mike Yeo earlier in the season and replaced him with Craig Berube.
By the time the third period started, the Rangers were hanging tough with some hard-work goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. Starting his third straight game and 29th game in the first 38 of the season, Lundqvist was battling and allowed his team to have that 2-1 lead going into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
The club then buckled down to play a conservative period, chipping it out and doing its best to keep the Blues to the outside. Berube pulled the goalie with 2:35 left in regulation, and Lundqvist was forced to make a stop on Jaden Schwartz with 1:21 left to retain the lead.
There were piles of humanity in front of Lundqvist for the remainder of the game, but he and his defenders were somehow able to keep everything out.
The game had started with quite a bit different feel than the one in Nashville, which was hard-nosed and physical. This one was rather cordial, a little preamble to the celebration coming later in the night.
It didn’t started well for the Rangers, either, going down 1-0 at 10:08 of the first period when Ryan O’Reilly was given just enough room to collect his 15th goal of the season on a one-timer from the right circle.
But St. Louis kept giving the Rangers power plays and they finally were able to take advantage when Chris Kreider made a great individual play to set up Mats Zuccarello, who tied it 1-1 with just 19.6 seconds remaining in the first.
They took a 2-1 lead at 3:11 of the second period when a Boo Nieves backhand snuck by goalie Jake Allen — who had been terrific up to that point — allowing the Rangers to keep that one-goal lead going into the third.