The Rangers were on their last legs, but they willed themselves to the finish line in a game that they had no business being in, let alone winning.
In their 2020-21 season finale, Mika Zibanejad scored two of the Blueshirts’ four third-period goals in a 5-4 win over the Bruins on Saturday.
This wasn’t expected, given the fact the Rangers took the ice with a depleted lineup that featured four players who spent most of the season in the AHL against the playoffs-bound Bruins. Not to mention the mental and physical toll this past week probably took on the Rangers, from the beating they took against the Capitals to dealing with the aftermath of a shocking front-office change.
Tied 1-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, the Bruins’ perfection line capitalized on a turnover by Pavel Buchnevich 21 seconds in with a goal from David Pastrnak. But as Boston seemingly expected the Rangers to lay down and die after the exhausting week they had, the Blueshirts did the opposite.
The Rangers potted three straight goals in the span of 4:14 early in the third period to take a 4-2 lead.
After a spurt of stellar passing failed, the Rangers tried it again, and this time Zibanejad finished the play. Alexis Lafreniere scored two minutes later, and then so did Vitali Kravtsov, giving the Rangers a two-goal lead.
The Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron didn’t make it easy, recording a goal each in the final six minutes to try and avoid what they knew would be an embarrassing loss. But Zibanejad’s second goal of the game, sandwiched between those Boston scores at 18:07, proved to be the game-winner.
The last five losses certainly didn’t make for the high note the Rangers’ hoped to go out on, but they made the last one count.
Playing without Kaapo Kakko (who was out for precautionary reasons), Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Chris Kreider and Ryan Lindgren, the Rangers somehow beat a Bruins team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
And Keith Kinkaid, making his first start since March 28, recorded 28 saves on 30 shots to spearhead the win. Even when he left with 11:10 remaining in the third due to an injury, Igor Shesterkin wrapped things up with seven saves on nine shots.
So it all came to an end, with the Rangers finishing the season at 27-23-6. It wasn’t pretty, but it definitely ended on the high note they were hoping for.