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Raanta's 39 saves lead Rangers past Coyotes

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE Ariz. -- Antti Raanta knows that life as Henrik Lundqvist's backup with the New York Rangers involves a lot of sitting on the bench, wearing a baseball cap and staring at the video screen.

But when he's gotten his chance to play this season, Raanta has been every bit as good as Lundqvist, if not better.

Raanta came within 4.6 seconds of recording his second shutout in three starts, but had to settle for 39 saves and a satisfying road victory as the Rangers won their fifth straight game, 4-1 against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Arizona captain Shane Doan ruined the shutout with a rebound putback on the power play. But the Rangers improved to 7-0-2 in their past nine games, and that was fine with Raanta, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks during the summer.

"I lost all my road games last year, so I really didn't care about the shutout," said Raanta, who is 16-0-3 in his career in home games but 7-9-2 on the road. He hadn't won a road game since April 4, 2014, when he was in goal for the Blackhawks for a 4-3 victory at the Columbus Blue Jackets. "The shutout is always a bonus, but there was lots of luck today and lots of chances. They probably deserved that one goal."

Raanta has allowed two goals on 88 shots in his three starts, a save percentage of .976. He and Lundqvist (.945 save percentage) have combined to allow 22 goals in 14 games this season; they are a big reason the Rangers (10-2-2) lead the Metropolitan Division.

"I felt really good in training camp, and working with our goalie coach [Benoit Allaire], every day is a good day because he's always in a good mood," Raanta said. "I just try to do my thing whenever I get to play a game. It's worked so far."

Forwards J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider scored 2:29 apart in the second period to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead and chase Arizona goalie Mike Smith, who has allowed 13 goals in his last 132 minutes of play and has been pulled in two of his last three starts.

"I felt good about my game tonight," Smith said. "Other than the last goal, I obviously made a mistake there, but prior to that I felt better than I have in the last little while. It's not the outcome we are looking for.

"I have to be better. It's pretty simple. I'll take full responsibility for us getting behind and it's hard to come back when you get behind in this league."

Jesper Fest and Kevin Hayes also scored for the Rangers, who won road games against the Colorado Avalanche and the Coyotes on back-to-back nights.

The Coyotes (6-6-1) lost the game and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann, who sustained a lower-body injury in a collision with Rangers forward Jarrett Stoll late in the first period and didn't return.

The Coyotes had a season-high 40 shots, including 16 from the top line of Tobias Rieder, Martin Hanzal and Anthony Duclair. Hanzal's apparent power-play goal in the third period was waved off when replays showed he batted the puck into the net with a high stick.

"It was real frustrating," Rieder said. "Especially my line, we could have gotten like five goals. Even after we were down 4-0 we didn't quit. We kept fighting. We just couldn't manage to get the puck in the net."

The first period featured 27 shots on goal and numerous top-shelf scoring chances, but just one goal. That came when Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi wristed a shot from the just off the wall that Fast deflected down in the right circle. The puck skipped under Smith at 8:00 for Fast's second goal of the season.

"In the last 10 minutes of the first period especially, they had some Grade-A chances and [Raanta] made some amazing saves," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Goaltending is a big part of winning, and we had the better goaltender tonight."

The second period belonged to the Rangers.

After Doan whiffed on a clearing attempt in the slot in his own zone, Miller pounced on the puck and pushed it between Smith's pads at 2:07 for his second goal. Kreider ended Smith's night at 5:36 when he fired a wrist shot from the right circle that trickled between Smith's pads, putting the Coyotes in a 3-0 hole.

Hayes capped the period with his fourth goal, a power-play shot from the left point into traffic that eluded Lindback at 13:26.

"We put ourselves in trouble two or three times tonight. We didn't execute well enough," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "If you look deep into the game, there are some things that we have to do much better."

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