VANCOUVER - It's not often a five-goal win is described as gritty, but that's the term that best suits the Rangers' 7-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks that completed the three-game sweep of western Canada.
"I would say tonight before confidence I would say 'icebags,'" Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "So many of our guys tonight put their bodies on the line to block shots, came back and continued to play through the pain. So for me, that was a big statement. The willingness to pay the price in defensive situations which when we had offensive opportunities, we were able to capitalize. It was our third game in four nights and our guys really paid the price tonight."
Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller each scored twice and Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 36 shots to improve to 9-4 on the season.
"We're definitely finding ways right now to put the puck in the net," said Miller, who leads the Rangers with 17 points this season. "When you do that, it makes it easier on the whole team. We're getting good goaltending, guys are defending first and we're finding ways to put pucks in the net. It's a tough thing to stop."
Despite being outshot in the first period, the Rangers escaped the opening 20 minutes with a lead thanks to a late goal by Miller, who redirected a pass from Mats Zuccarello in the slot that beat goaltender Jacob Markstrom at 18:42.
Video: NYR@VAN: Miller nets redirect between his legs
"There's no doubt in the first period there we got caught on a couple long shifts in our own end, especially against the Sedin line," Vigneault said. "We were able to find a way to get through that first period and I thought after that we played much better."
The Blueshirts would extend that lead midway through the second period when Hayes' slapshot beat Markstrom from the circle at 9:08 for his seventh of the season. Defenseman Brady Skjei picked up the secondary assist on the goal and is currently tied for fourth among defensemen in assists with 10, which is also the most by any rookie this season.
Brandon Pirri would make it 3-0 with his fifth of the season on the power play with 5:22 left in the second. The goal was Pirri's third power play marker of the season. Ryan McDonagh picked up an assist on the goal, and is now tied for second in assists by a defenseman this season with 11.
Video: NYR@VAN: Hayes unloads a slap shot past Markstrom
After Vancouver scored late in the second period, Hayes and Miller scored 42 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the third period. Hayes beat Markstrom on a breakaway top shelf, while Miller buried a nifty pass from behind the net from Zuccarello for his second of the night and seventh of the season.
Zuccarello and Nick Holden added goals to cap the scoring.
While the goal scoring eventually came, the story could have been drastically different if it were not for Lundqvist's superb play in the first period when he made 17 saves, which included back-to-back penalty kills for New York.
"Guys worked extremely hard," Lundqvist said. "I think [Dan] Girardi saved a couple goals with some big blocks. As a goalie that gives you a lot of energy. You want to work even harder to be there for them because they're making big plays in front of you, in front of me, in front of Antti [Raanta]. That's where it starts. How hard you want to work in your own end and after that good things will happen."
The offense, though, remains the Rangers' biggest weapon. In total, 10 different Rangers had points, including multi-point performances by Miller, Hayes, Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Jesper Fast and Holden.
"It's hard to win in this league and obviously it's surprising we're scoring at the rate we're scoring at right now but we're getting every line to chip in and that's one of the hardest thing to stop," Miller said. "That's something we've been doing since Game 1 this season. We're definitely happy with that."