Hot Bread overloads Lightning as Rangers roll to 5-1 win

The New York Rangers were loaded on carbohydrates with the Breadman scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 romp over the Tampa Lightning to close out 2023. Vincent Trocheck registered a goal and three assists as he set up Artemi Panarin for two of those three goals.

“It seems he somehow continues to get better,” Trocheck said of Panarin. “He’s one of the best in the league. His scoring is up and he’s shooting more. He’s fun to play with.”

Igor Shesterkin celebrated his 28th birthday, by treating himself to his fifth straight win and possibly his best performance of the season in stopping 34 of 35 shots on Saturday night.

Related: Chris Drury a big reason for team success

New York Rangers 5 vs Tampa Bay Lightning 1

NHL: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have had an uncanny ability to start well in the second half of a back-to-back and Saturday night was no exception. With a little help from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman falling as he tried to play the puck, Vincent Trocheck found Artemi Panarin who wired home the 2-on-0 rush to give the Rangers 1-0 lead just 1:51 into the game. For Panarin, he now has goals in four consecutive games, and Alexis Lafrenière would tally his fifth point in six games.

Just under six minutes later, it would be the Rangers striking again. Alexis Lafrenière would get an opportunity with a nifty move but his stuff-in attempt was saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, the Rangers continued to press and a shot on goal from the point by the captain Jacob Trouba wasn’t handled by Vasilevskiy and Vincent Trocheck was there to bang home the rebound to put the Rangers up 2-0 before the halfway point of the opening frame.

The Lightning would have their push later in the period as Brandon Hagel would get a really good opportunity off the rush as he drove hard to the net but the birthday boy Igor Shesterkin was able to get his paddle down and stuff the first good scoring chance of the night for Tampa Bay.

Later in the period, the Lightning would appear to get within a goal as Michael Eyssimont would get a shot on goal that would be saved by Shesterkin, Tanner Jeannot would fall into the Rangers netminder, taking him out of position, and Eyssimont would stuff home the wrap around. The play would be challenged by the Rangers and overturned due to goalie interference. That being said, on the play Mika Zibanejad would take a penalty and the Rangers would be shorthanded for the first time on the night against the third-best power-play unit in the league.

The penalty kill would belong to Jacob Trouba as he would block two shots, a pass, and force a turnover late in the kill to nullify the lethal Lightning power play.

Anthony Cirelli would make sure the opening frame didn’t end without a little fireworks. The crafty centerman would get a partial breakaway right at the end of the period but a good defensive play by Vincent Trocheck as time expired prevented a quality scoring chance. The Rangers would head into the break up 2-0.

The Rangers started the second period on their heels a bit as the Lightning pressed to get back in the game. Just before the first TV timeout of the period, Michael Eyssimont would let go a sneaky wrister from the near side circle that Shesterkin would make a fantastic glove save on.

Barclay Goodrow would try to swing the momentum back in the Rangers favor as he would be sprung by Tyler Pitlick after a blocked shot but is stuffed by Vasilevskiy as Goodrow tried to beat him off the backhand. Jimmy Vesey would have his stick slashed out of his hands after poking at the loose puck in the crease and no call. However, K’Andre Miller would then be called for interference and the Rangers would head back to the kill for the second time on the night.

It would last all of 37 seconds as Brayden Point gets called for high-sticking to negate the penalty. The second time in the game it would be 4-on-4.

Tampa Bay would dominate the later half of the second period. They created all the chances and had all of the pressure in the Rangers defensive zone for two to three minutes but Shesterkin made some fantastic saves. After one of Shesterkin’s saves, Braden Schneider would get called for roughing Nikita Kucherov so the Rangers were shorthanded for the third time on the night.

Igor Shesterkin would do his best to keep the Lightning attack at bay as he would make three incredible saves on the penalty kill, but as the rebound came back to Steven Stamkos, he found a wide-open Nikita Kucherov who wouldn’t get all of the shot but it would be just enough find the yawning cage. For Kucherov it’s his 25th goal of the season to cut the Rangers lead to 2-1.

New York would have an answer almost instantly. 51 seconds after the Kucherov goal the Rangers would be hard on the boards in their defensive zone before a loose puck would find Blake Wheeler. He took one look up and lobbed a long pass to Trocheck that would spring a 2-on-1 with Chris Kreider and Kreider wired home the shot off the pass. The Rangers would regain their two-goal lead late in the period and take it into the break.

Tampa Bay came out of the intermission buzzing yet again. The Rangers sat back in their 1-3-1 trap and had success early but the Lightning created some opportunities that Shesterkin was up to the task for.

The Rangers would start their first real rush of the period but Braden Schneider fired the shot wide and sprung the Lightning the other way. Ryan Lindgren would block a centering pass but it would lay in the low slot for Victor Hedman who was stopped by Shesterkin who came way out of the blue paint to challenge the Tampa Bay defenseman.

Artemi Panarin’s incredible season would see yet another signature moment. After Vincent Trocheck wins a puck battle at center ice, Panarin would go 1-on-2 with Victor Hedman, dance around the former Norris Trophy winner, and rip it past the former Vezina Trophy winner to extend the Rangers lead to three midway through the final frame. His second of the night and he wouldn’t be done.

“He’s pretty good,” Lafreniere smirked when talking about Panarin. “Just making so many plays out there. Troch has been really good too, so all three of us are trying to build that chemistry out there.”

Nick Paul would have a chance to get the Lightning back in the game as he blew by Ryan Lindgren but Paul hits the post, Shesterkin would nudge it with his pad to keep it off the goal line and Adam Fox would swipe it to safety with the glove.

Steven Stamkos would get called for holding on Adam Fox, and the Rangers would get their first real power play of the game with 4:56 left in regulation.

On the power play, Adam Fox would get it to Artemi Panarin who released another wicked wrister past the blocker side of Vasilevskiy. Panarin’s second hat trick of the season extended the lead to 5-1.

“He’s had an unbelievable start to the year,” coach Laviolette noted of Panarin. “I think the line has played really well. They generate a lot of chances and tonight it certainly paid off.”

The Rangers move to 25-9-1 as they close out the 2023 slate of games. New York’s next game will be in the new year against the Carolina Hurricanes on January 2nd at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers Notes

  • Igor Shesterkin stopped 34 shots to win his 5th straight
  • Artemi Panarin closes 2023 with over 100 points
  • The Rangers are the first team to reach the 50 point mark (51), matching the 1993-94 Rangers

The Ranger are off on Sunday and will return to practice on Monday.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas