The Rangers came into the game with some good news / bad news. K’Andre Miller was fit to play after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Unfortunately, Kaapo Kakko has found himself on the NHL’s COVID List for a second time this season.
David Quinn did note that Kakko has no symptoms at this time, but certainly a concern for the diabetic forward.
Quinn’s new lines pay off in big win
The Rangers coach has been contemplating playing Artemi Panarin with Mika Zibanejad for awhile he admitted after the game. Today, with Kakko out he changed his top two lines and four of the top six scored.
“I liked our balance on our lines today, and listen, if you don’t change things, things stay the same,” Quinn said. “Maybe I should’ve done it sooner.”
Chris Kreider would get it going on the power play as he converted their second attempt of the game late in the first period. The difference between the Blueshirts first man advantage versus their second was night and day. They barely moved their feet on the first opportunity but the next one had movement and a smart Panarin shot that led to a rebound goal. It was Kreider’s 5th on the season.
Then in the second period, David Quinn’s new top line of Panarin, Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere game up with the eventual game winning marker. The Breadman mesmerized the defenders with an extra split second hold of the puck before hitting Lafreniere in front. The 19 year-old rookie would show poise and patience to score a beauty over Vitek Vanecek’s left pad.
For Lafreniere it was only the 2nd goal of his NHL career. While the points aren’t coming as fast as some would like, unfair comparisons to first round busts are unwarranted.
Rangers get goals from their centers
Ryan Strome had himself a day with an assist on Kreider’s goal to give him 100 points as a Blueshirt. He then followed that up with a laser beam shot for his 100th NHL goal.
And finally, after 13 games Mika Zibanejad would score a shorthanded empty net goal to seal the victory. It was his second goal of the season and his coach was happy to see it.
“If you look at his reaction, you sensed relief, and you look at reaction from some of the guys on the ice, there was relief,” Quinn explained. “Listen, he’s getting out of it. It’s not going to happen overnight. He’s not going to go from where he is to where he was last year. We just need to continue to see progress and thought that was another step in the right direction today.”
Igor Shesterkin and PK stellar again
Igor Shesterkin played solid in net except for one shot by Dmitry Orlov late in the second period. He turned aside 27 of 28 Caps shots to earn his 4th win of the season. While his record hasn’t been what he and the Rangers hoped for, his 2.23 GAA is first among rookie goalies and his .922 SV% ranks second.
The New York Rangers penalty kill is also on an unreal streak. They went 4-4 today and have now killed 34 of 36 penalties in the last 10 games. What’s more impressive is that they are only giving up an average of 1.05 shots per power play.
Jacques Martin has lived up to the billing as the NYR PK is climbing up the NHL leaderboard. They currently rank 9th at 84.62%, while the Bruins lead the league at 88.89%.
Post Game Notes
- The Rangers have earned a win in two consecutive games for the second time this season (also Feb. 1 vs. Pittsburgh and Feb. 4 vs. Washington).
- The Rangers extended their road winning/point streak to three games and have earned at least one point in four of their six road contests in 2020-21 (3-2-1 record).
- The Blueshirts were 1-for-5 on the power play in today’s contest. The Rangers have tallied a power play goal in each of the last two games. New York has posted a 4-1-2 record when tallying at least one power play goal in a game this season.
- Artemi Panarin notched two assists, both of which were primary assists, in today’s game. He leads the Rangers in assists (13), and points (18) this season.
- Pavel Buchnevich recorded two assists, including his first career NHL shorthanded assist/point, led the Rangers with four shots on goal, and posted a plus-two rating.
The Blueshirts are off tomorrow and return to practice on Monday, Feb. 22: Practice, 11:00 a.m. at MSG Training Center. They will practice again on Tuesday at the same time.
Next Game: Wednesday, Feb. 24 at Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: NBCSN).
Notes courtesy NYR