Alexis Lafreniere and Louis Domingue spark Rangers win over Wild

NHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A slew of injuries could at some point catch up to the red-hot New York Rangers.

Maybe. But not Thursday.

Alexis Lafreniere’s third period goal lifted the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over Minnesota in what was an up-and-down contest for both teams at Madison Square Garden.

The trio of Vincent Trochek, Panarin and Lafreniere, together due to an upper-body injury to Filip Chytil, has become the de facto top line. Lafreniere had his first career three-point game, while Trochek and Panarin had three and two, respectively. Panarin, meanwhile, extended his point streak to 13 games to begin the season.

“I think Alexis has a lot of skill,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after his team improved to 8-0-1 in its last nine games. “I think [Lafreniere and Panarin] think alike and I think they have a lot of skill that matches up and connects on the ice.

“Alexis thinks the game about making plays and how to create space and how to find areas to generate offense,” he added. “When you get two guys who can read off each other and feed off each other, that can become dangerous.”

Related: Early grades for the Rangers offseason acquisitions

New York Rangers 4 vs Minnesota Wild 1

NHL: Minnesota Wild at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After arguably their worst period of the season in getting outshot 15-3 in the second, the Rangers needed just 1:41 to regain their lead when Panarin fed Lafreniere for a one-timer off a 2-on-1 to break the tie.

“He’s an unbelievable player,” Lafreniere said of Panarin after scoring his fifth of the season. “For me, just trying to make plays for him. When he has the puck, try and get open because he usually finds you. Just try and stay ready.”

As if injuries to Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin and Chytil weren’t enough for a team to deal with, backup goaltender Jonathan Quick missed the game due to injury, opening the door for Louis Domingue.

Domingue’s only blemish came in the second off a deflection through traffic that tied the game. He finished with 26 saves and picked up his first NHL win since beating the Rangers in Game 4 in 2022 in his first NHL game since Game 6 of the same series.

“I just tried to get by the first five minutes is one of my keys,” Domingue said. “From my experience, when you haven’t played in the NHL for a while, you need to get going. You need to adapt to the pace of play, the traffic. How heavy the guys are in front of the net. It was a matter of me getting by the first little bit and build on it.”

Saves were met with chants of ‘Lou’ from the crowd at The Garden, which meant a lot to the journeyman netminder.

“It felt amazing,” said Domingue, who added he wished his kids were there for it. “To get that support from the crowd like that was great. It’s nice to be on their side.”

Trochek, who scored twice Tuesday against Detroit, opened the scoring 3:56 into the game. Erik Gustaffson kept a puck in on the blueline before feeding Lafreniere, who found Trochek in the slot. His wrist shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury for his fourth of the season.

“He’s been really good for us,” Lafreniere said of Trochek. “Two-way player and really good faceoffs. It gives us a lot of options, especially in the O zone when he can win that many faceoffs. He’s been really good for us.”

Blake Wheeler cashed in on New York’s only power play of the night for his first goal as a Ranger before Panarin’s empty-net goal capped the scoring.

To his credit, Laviolette didn’t shuffle the deck going into the third and stuck with the Trochek line to carry the load with the other lines struggling to generate consistent offense at even strength.

Both Laviolette and Lafreniere spoke about Trochek’s addition to that line, with Laf

His patience paid off and his team walked away with another two points.

“I don’t think anyone was real happy with the second period,” Laviolette said. “We played bad. We sat back too much. They kind of dictated what went on in the second. I really liked the response of our guys in the third period.”

Rangers Notes

  • Louis Domingue won his Rangers debut stopping 25 of 26 shots
  • Alexis Lafreniere notched his first career 3-point game
  • Artemi Panarin season-opening point streak is at 13 games (8 goals, 14 assists)
  • Blake Wheeler scored his first goal with the Rangers
  • NYR PP and PK were perfect at 1-1 each

The Rangers will be off on Friday but will return to practice this Saturday at 11 a.m. ET.

New York will host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night with a 7:00 p.m. ET puck drop.

Matt Calamia spent six seasons as a digital content producer and writer for the New York Rangers. Prior to... More about Matt Calamia

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