Find-A-Way Rangers Forging Identity

So here are the Rangers, 24 games into the season, and still forging an identity.

Lately, that identity has been similar to that of the first two seasons under coach Alain Vigneault, which is to say, the “Find-A-Way” Rangers.

In their last two games, they have most certainly been that: Slow starts, important third-period goals, and two wins after regulation – in overtime against Detroit, and in a shootout against Vancouver.

All of which makes it four wins in a row, 10 in their last 12 games, and eight straight at The Garden.

These “Find-A-Way” Rangers on Sunday, for the third time this season, won a game in which they trailed entering the third period, tied for most in the league. It just doesn’t happen very often.

The Rangers, Road Warriors last season, will have to be that again, playing 33 of their final 55 games away from The Garden after hosting Florida Tuesday and Carolina Friday.

[Watch Rangers-Panthers Tuesday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

Some thoughts:

1. None of what has happened, or anything good that might still happen, happens without Henrik Lundqvist rediscovering his current form (1.22 goals-against average, .960 save percentage during the four-game win streak).

It was pretty cool that it was Lundqvist who convinced Vigneault to defer and allow Vancouver to shoot first in the shootout Sunday, and he was strong through the seven-round skills competition.

Lundqvist, with a laugh, said post game, “I remember the good old days when I actually was really good on shootouts, but I’m working on it.”

Just a few other items on the keeper: Anybody else think Lundqvist needs some pine tar on his stick-handle? He’s lost his stick, it seems, once or twice a game lately. He’s also been going old-school with the pad-stack saves when he needs them. Lundqvist is still facing more high-danger 5-on-5 shots (7.17 per 60 minutes entering Sunday’s game) than any No. 1 goalie in the league per Corsica via @HockeyStatMiner.

His next win will tie him with Tony Esposito of Chicago for second most wins with one team (418). Martin Brodeur is way out in front at 688.

2. It was an interesting week for a bunch of Rangers, including Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast.

3. Vesey had all his (new) teeth in, and his game got better. He was promoted in-game Sunday to a line (where he had played earlier in the season) with Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash. They combined for a huge goal starting with Vesey’s defensive-zone play, then a remarkable pass by Hayes to Nash, who spun and got it to Vesey driving to the net to score. Then Vesey scored the second shootout-winner of his career.

4. Zuccarello, whose game has been marvelous lately, did that viral dance in Carolina, starred in the spinning GIF that introduced the Rangers’ Winter Classic jersey, and, among many plays, made the pass to spring Grabner in the early seconds of the third period for the tying goal Sunday.

5. Grabner has been elevated to the top nine – playing with Zuccarello, who dropped down, and J.T. Miller – to give the Rangers much-needed scoring depth, and he was arguably the best Ranger Sunday.

6. Fast had his first two-goal game in Carolina, and scored the Rangers’ first goal Sunday (they trailed 2-0 at the time), then was taken off that line for Vesey. The Rangers are 12-5-2 with Fast in the lineup and 8-0-1 when he has a point.

7. Vigneault made those moves, by the way. You know, the guy who many Rangers fans were saying “lost the team” back in October. Guess what. He must have found it.

8. The Rangers won three in a row without injured captain Ryan McDonagh, but they surely miss McDonagh’s wheels in the 3-on-3 OTs.

9. Nash, who scored a huge shootout goal, couldn’t remember the last time he was chosen to participate in a shootout. Me? I’d have him and that shot of his in the shootout all the time. Vesey pretty much copied Nash’s shot for the winner.

10. Did you notice that the Rangers’ Winter Classic jerseys are blue, even though they are the visiting team New Year’s Day at Citi Field? The Rangers and home-team Buffalo Sabres agreed to go that way. The Rangers have worn white in each of their previous three outdoor games – all of them as the road team, all of them victories.

[Watch Rangers-Panthers Tuesday on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]