NEW YORK — The St. Louis Blues had a chance to clinch a postseason berth on their own terms, but a stubborn goaltender stood in their way.
Alexandar Georgiev made 44 saves and Jimmy Vesey scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, helping the New York Rangers beat the Blues 4-2 on Friday night.
Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider also scored for New York, who had lost two in a row.
“We are not happy, we lost the game,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “That’s the players’ mindset. We want to win games. It was a winnable game and we didn’t win it.”
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Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron scored for St. Louis, which could still clinch a playoff spot if Arizona lost at Colorado later Friday night. Jordan Binnington stopped 21 shots in only his third regulation loss on the road this season.
Vesey found a loose puck during a scramble in front at 5:17 of the third to break the 2-2 tie. Brett Howden and Vinni Lettieri assisted on the play.
“I think it was big mentally, I’ve been in a little bit of a drought,” Vesey said after scoring his first goal since February 27th. “End of the year, you want to end on a high note and I think that goes for individually and as a team.”
Kreider, who missed the previous three games with a lower-body injury, added an empty-net goal with 8 seconds remaining to seal it for the Rangers.
Early in the second period, the Rangers erased a two-goal deficit with two of their own within a span of 1:20.
Strome notched his 17th of the season when he found a loose puck in front at 2:22 of the period. Mika Zibanejad helped tie it when he delivered a beautiful cross-ice feed to set up Buchnevich for a one-timer at 3:42. It was Buchnevich’s seventh goal in the month of March and 19th on the season.
“Regardless of the situation, everything feels better when you are winning, the mood is light and everyone is having fun,” Vesey added after the Rangers’ first regulation win since March 9. “I don’t think that’s the prettiest game we have played all year, but that’s a good team and will take the win.”
Tarasenko opened the scoring at 14:35 of the first when he powered the puck past Georgiev through a small opening on the short side. The Blues alternate captain has recorded at least 30 goals and 30 assists for five straight seasons. Jayden Schwartz and Ryan O’Reilly assisted.
Just 27 seconds later, David Perron doubled St. Louis’ advantage. Schwartz took advantage of Brendan Smith‘s turnover and fed Perron for the easy tap-in.
Smith, who has played forward for a large chunk of the season, was shifted back to defense after Kreider returned to the lineup. Smith was also called for goalie interference at 16:58 of the first period when Zibanejad appeared to cut the Blues’ two-goal lead in half. However, the call was reversed after St. Louis coach Craig Berube challenged the play.
“We got very sloppy with the puck. We want to play more north and we kept coming back,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “It really caused us problems in the last 30 minutes I thought, but we found a way to win. Obviously, our goalie had a lot to do with it and we got a timely goal in the third period.”
NOTES: Rangers scratched forward Connor Brickley and defensemen Fredrik Claesson, John Gilmour. … Marc Staal returned to the lineup for the Rangers after missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury. … During a first-period stoppage, the Rangers welcomed back former left wing Sean Avery. .. St. Louis scratched Michael Del Zotto, Robby Fabbri and MacKenzie MacEachern.
Blues: At New Jersey on Saturday night.
Rangers: At Philadelphia on Sunday.