NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello's power-play goal in overtime not only gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, it cut the tension that has been building around them for the better part of a month.
Instead of going into the NHL Christmas break frustrated at the way they've been playing and questioning their resolve, the Rangers get to rest and rejuvenate knowing their performance Tuesday was a good one, and perhaps a blueprint for how to get back to winning regularly.
Zuccarello's goal helped the Rangers (20-12-4) end a three-game losing streak. It gave them their second win in the past eight games and fourth in the past 15.
They don't play again until Monday at the Nashville Predators.
"It's a big stepping stone," defenseman Marc Staal said. "We were better. We just can't forget it in the next five days. We have to keep it going after the break."
Zuccarello scored off a one-timer from the right circle. Defenseman Dan Boyle delivered the cross-ice pass to set him up after the Rangers sustained possession in the offensive zone with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler in the box for holding Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh.
Zuccarello, who also had an assist, has a team-high 15 goals. Rangers center Derick Brassard had an assist on the winner and scored two goals off defensive turnovers by the Ducks.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist finished with 17 saves. He allowed 13 goals in his previous three games and 20 in five, but that had as much to do with his teammates' poor play in front of him as it did with his own issues.
They were much better in front of Lundqvist on Tuesday.
"We didn't give up much," Lundqvist said. "It was really great to see that we were in control for the most part. They didn't pressure us much; they made it a little easier for us to stay in structure. It is something that we have to keep working on here, try to get back to our game and get back to the time and making good reads. I think tonight we were really paying attention to being in the right place."
Anaheim's struggles, however, continued.
Rickard Rakell forced overtime by scoring his seventh goal of the season at 17:06 of the third period, but Anaheim fell to 0-5 in the extra period.
The Ducks (12-15-6) have lost back-to-back games and went 1-2-1 with six goals on their four-game eastern road trip. They have 30 points through 33 games entering the break, fewest among the 14 teams in the Western Conference.
Anaheim had 51 points through 36 games going into the holiday break last season.
"Everybody wants to play as good as they can and be as productive and help the team in any way, and it just hasn't worked," Rakell said. "All we can do is go into the break and get some rest, think about what you can do different and make sure to come back and work for the guy next to you. We've got to change this around."
Rakell's goal at least helped the Ducks salvage one point, but it didn't erase the feelings coach Bruce Boudreau had about how Brassard scored his two goals in regulation, which came off preventable defensive zone turnovers.
Brassard tied the game at 1-1 at 17:50 of the first period after he intercepted defenseman Josh Manson's pass. He quickly shot from the left hash marks and beat Ducks goalie John Gibson (19 saves) on the far side.
"You go up the middle when all he had to do was go to the side, his guy was wide open too," Boudreau said. "Use the boards. It's a simple play."
Brassard's second goal, which gave New York a 2-1 lead at 2:44 of the third period, came after Zuccarello intercepted Jiri Sekac's errant pass. Zuccarello moved the puck across to Brassard for a one-timer that he ripped past Gibson.
"The mistakes we're making, this is the NHL, this isn't the Junior B at 14 years old when you expect that," Boudreau said. "This is the National Hockey League. Those guys gotta make better plays coming out of our zone."
What made Brassard's second goal even worse in Boudreau's mind was it came 11 seconds after the Ducks finished a power play that didn't even feature a shot attempt. The Rangers, though, had a shorthanded scoring chance.
"We get the power play, but instead of taking advantage of it, we were horrible," Boudreau said.
Rakell at least gave the Ducks some life with his goal, which came off of a strong breakout that led to a tape-to-tape diagonal pass from captain Ryan Getzlaf to Rakell. He used McDonagh as a screen, and his shot hit McDonagh's stick before going past Lundqvist.
But the Ducks weren't able to do anything with the momentum they should have generated from the goal. Fowler hauled down McDonagh in overtime, setting up the Rangers' 4-on-3 power play that ended with Zuccarello's goal.
Tension cut. Hello, holiday break.
"Oh, it's going to be nice," Brassard said.