That was too close for comfort.
The definition of a seesaw affair took place in San Jose as the Rangers held on for the 6-5 win over the hometown Sharks.
Right from the get go things were different for the Blueshirts. And that’s because Kevin Hayes’ return from injury had a huge impact on the team.
With their top defensive center back in the fold the Rangers were able to settle into the game early and build off their defense.
5:45 into the first period, Mats Zuccarello made a nice play to get the puck out of the Rangers’ zone and it ended up on J.T. Miller’s stick.
Miller proceeded to make a tape-to-tape pass to a streaking Hayes. Hayes wound up for a big slap shot from the left circle and blasted the puck past Aaron Dell for the 1-0 lead.
However, the Sharks came back with the tying-goal a minute later; courtesy of Barclay Goodrow.
A few minutes later, Logan Couture took advantage of a defensive lapse by the Rangers and buried the puck past Ondrej Pavelec for the 2-1 lead.
With the game looking like it was going to get out of hand, Peter Holland made a nice play in the neutral zone to get the puck to Michael Grabner.
Grabner made a nifty play along the boards and sent a cross-ice pass to Jesper Fast.
Fast found himself alone in front of the net and snuck the puck past Dell; tying the game.
The second period started off with both teams skating well; the Sharks drawing first blood.
Couture netted his second of the game on an off-angle shot; giving San Jose the 3-2 lead.
Then came a long overdue moment for the Blueshirts.
Miller sprung Hayes with a beautiful outlet pass and Hayes sent an equally impressive pass across the ice to Ryan McDonagh.
McDonagh blasted the puck past Dell — his first goal of the year — tying the game at three.
The Captain was rewarded for all his hard work, and he wasn’t done there.
With the Rangers on the power-play Pavel Buchnevich got the puck over to McDonagh at the point and Ryan sent a seeing-eye shot towards the Sharks’ net.
Rick Nash parked himself in front of Dell, screening him, and McDonagh’s shot wound up in the back of San Jose’s net; giving New York the 4-3 lead.
From there the Sharks tried to take back control of the game and managed to draw a power-play.
But the Blueshirts’ weren’t ready to surrender their lead.
Brady Skjei found himself in front of Dell after a short-handed odd man rush.
And Skjei noticed the puck was loose in the crease, promptly depositing it in the back of the net; giving the visitors the 5-3 lead. The short-handed goal was the Rangers’ second in as many games.
The Blueshirts came out playing prevent defense in the third period and it nearly cost them.
Just after the midway point of the period Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored; bringing the Sharks within one.
As the Sharks continued their late period push, Zuccarello carried the puck deep into San Jose’s zone and made a tremendous pass to J.T. Miller.
Miller — who was on fire all night — took the puck and rifled it past Dell; giving the Rangers the 6-4 lead. And as it turns out, they needed every one of those six goals.
With 49.7 seconds remaining, and the Sharks net empty, Tomas Hertl snuck the puck past Pavelec; cutting the Blueshirts’ lead to 6-5.
The Rangers managed to hang on from there; snapping their three-game losing-streak.
They head into the All-Star Break with a much needed win and are just one point out of a playoff spot.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
PAPA JOHN’S (2X): For the fourth time in six games the Blueshirts scored three or more goals; tying their season-high with six.
PERFECT IN THIRD: The Rangers took a 5-3 lead into the third period and held on for the 6-5 win. With the win they are now 16-0-0 when leading going into the third period.
SPECIAL TEAMS: For the second straight game the Blueshirts tallied a short-handed goal. And they also managed to extend their power-play goal streak to four straight and eight of 12. It is the first time since 2014 that the Rangers recorded both power-play and short-handed goals in consecutive games.
OFFENSIVE DEFENSEMEN: Blueshirts’ defensemen tallied four points tonight (three goals and one assist). McDonagh recorded his first two goals of the season (power-play and even strength). And Brady Skjei chipped in with a short-handed tally.
The Rangers face Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs Thursday (Feb. 1) at MSG. Game time: 7 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Networks. NOTE: Rangers are off due to the NHL ALL-Star Break. They will be represented by Henrik Lundqvist at the yearly festivities.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Rangers went into San Jose and came out with the win.
And that’s all that matters.
Enjoy the All-Star Break!