The New York Rangers got the win they were hoping for Tuesday when Mats Zuccarello scored a 4-on-3 power-play goal in overtime to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. The vibe in the Rangers' dressing room after the game was one of relief, satisfaction and optimism.
"I thought we played the right way," coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Rangers still struggled to string together passes. They didn't funnel the puck to the net enough, a big reason why they had 22 shots on goal, their fourth-fewest in a game this season. Their power play, at least the 5-on-4 variety, was haphazard at best, dreadful at worst.
But they won and they didn't have any detrimental defensive-zone breakdowns. That's why there was relief. That's why there was satisfaction and optimism.
The New York Rangers picked up a big win in their pre-break finale, but still face an uphill battle and are ranked 14th in NHL.com's latest Super 16. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Rangers repeatedly have been victimized by turnovers, awful gap control and general lapses in coverage during their recent swoon (they're 4-9-2 in their past 15 games after going 13-1-1 in their previous 15). They didn't get burned by any of that against the struggling Ducks.
"We were much more patient in our end zone," defenseman Marc Staal said. "Our 1-on-1 battles, our compete level, our attention to detail was much better."
Staal noted the Rangers can't forget about how they played against the Ducks during the holiday break. They got a big win, but the schedule doesn't get any easier when they return.
Eight of their next 10 games are against teams currently in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Six of their next 10 games are on the road.
The Rangers begin their post-holiday schedule with a three-game road trip: at the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. They also play two games against the Washington Capitals and one each against the Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks by Jan. 19.
The Lightning aren't in a playoff position but they have won nine of their past 15 games and should be getting injured players back after the break. The Philadelphia Flyers also aren't in a playoff position but they're 8-2-2 since U.S. Thanksgiving.
The Rangers can feel good about an important overtime win, but building on it when they get back will be challenging.
Four more teams that could find it tough to build off a big win when they come back:
Pittsburgh Penguins: They defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Monday to stave off talk of a slump, if only for the holiday break. The Penguins, who hope to get center Sidney Crosby back after Christmas, are five points out of a playoff spot. They play 16 games before the All-Star break, including nine against teams currently in a playoff position.
Philadelphia Flyers: They've played well since Thanksgiving and are hoping to build off of a come-from-behind 4-3 win against the St. Louis Blues on Monday. The Flyers start their post-break schedule with a three-game California road trip. After playing in Anaheim, they play eight straight games against teams currently in a playoff position.
Nashville Predators: They rolled into the break with back-to-back wins against the Minnesota Wild (3-2) and Montreal Canadiens (5-1). They come out of the break with four straight games against teams in a playoff position (Detroit Red Wings, Rangers, Blues and Stars). They're on the road for eight of their last 10 games before the All-Star break.
San Jose Sharks: They won 5-3 against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. On paper, their schedule between Monday and the All-Star break looks relatively easy, with 11 of 14 games at home and five games against teams in playoff position at the break. However, they have the worst home record in the League (4-9-0), and they're 8-10-1 against teams in a playoff position.
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?
1. Washington Capitals (25-6-2)
Last week: No. 1
Good: The power play is clicking and they're winning even when facing multiple-goal deficits.
Not so good: The injury to defenseman Brooks Orpik has created a glaring possession issue; the Capitals have a 47.0 SAT percentage in 19 games without Orpik after having a 54.0 SAT percentage in 14 games with him, according to war-on-ice.com.
2. Dallas Stars (26-7-2)
Last week: No. 2
Good: In addition to scoring 14 goals in the past three games, they allowed five and went 3-0-0.
Not so good: Defenseman John Klingberg has no points in eight of his past 11 games after being held off the scoresheet in six of his first 24 games.
3. Chicago Blackhawks (20-12-4)
Last week: No. 5
Good: Forward Marian Hossa, who has missed the past two games, is expected to return after the holiday break.
Not so good: They've been shut out twice in their past five games after being shut out once in their first 31 games.
4. St. Louis Blues (21-11-4)
Last week: No. 7
Good: Despite allowing three goals in the third period against the Flyers on Monday, the Blues are still plus-14 in goal differential (37-23) after the second period.
Not so good: They're minus-7 (61-54) through two periods and have been tied or trailing entering the third period in 24 of their 36 games.
5. Boston Bruins (19-10-4)
Last week: No. 9
Good: They've killed off 22 consecutive power plays.
Not so good: They weren't nearly good enough in the third period against the Blues on Tuesday when they had an opportunity to win the game and move into first place in the Atlantic Division.
6. Los Angeles Kings (20-11-2)
Last week: No. 3
Good: They're third in the NHL at 8-7-1 when the opponent scores first.
Not so good: They've allowed five goals in three of their past four games.
7. Minnesota Wild (18-9-6)
Last week: No. 6
Good: Darcy Kuemper is owning the backup goalie job with a 4-0-2 record and seven goals allowed in his past six games.
Not so good: Defenseman Ryan Suter has three points in his past 10 games after he had 21 in his first 23 games.
8. Florida Panthers (19-12-4)
Last week: No. 16
Good: They've won five in a row, including the last two in the shootout. They're 5-1 in the shootout after going 8-10 last season.
Not so good: No reason to nitpick at a team that has won five in a row to climb eight spots in the rankings.
9. New York Islanders (19-11-5)
Last week: No. 4
Good: Forward John Tavares had two assists for his first two-point game since Nov. 16 in a 5-1 win against the Ducks on Monday.
Not so good: Tavares didn't have an assist in the previous 12 games, the longest such stretch of his NHL career.
10. Nashville Predators (17-11-6)
Last week: No. 13
Good: Defenseman Shea Weber leads the League with 15 points in 11 games this month.
Not so good: Forward James Neal has five points in 11 games this month.
11. Detroit Red Wings (17-10-7)
Last week: No. 11
Good: They are sixth in the League in first-period goals-against with 21.
Not so good: Three of those first-period goals against came in a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
12. Calgary Flames (16-16-2)
Last week: NR
Good: They've won 10 in a row at home, where they play seven of their next eight games.
Not so good: There is no security blanket for goalie Karri Ramo because Jonas Hiller has allowed 12 goals in his past three games.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning (17-15-3)
Last week: No. 12
Good: Forward Steven Stamkos has three goals, 17 shots on goal and 37 shot attempts in the past three games after going goalless on 17 shots on goal and 42 shot attempts in the previous 10 games.
Not so good: Forward Ryan Callahan has no goals and five assists in the past 21 games.
14. New York Rangers (20-12-4)
Last week: No. 10
Good: Defenseman Dan Boyle has been on the ice for 16 of their 22 power-play goals, factoring in on nine.
Not so good: Forward Kevin Hayes has no goals and three assists in the past 15 games.
15. Colorado Avalanche (17-17-1)
Last week: NR
Good: They have won eight of 11 games this month. One more win and they'll have their most wins in a month since March 2014.
Not so good: Despite the eight wins they're still last in the NHL in SAT percentage this month (42.2 percent), according to war-on-ice.com.
16. Montreal Canadiens (20-13-3)
Last week: No. 8
Good: They have two wins in 12 games this month despite being first in SAT percentage (56.3 percent).
Not so good: They are last in 5-on-5 shooting percentage (4.9 percent) and 28th in 5-on-5 save percentage (.890) this month.
Out: Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils