Jimmy Vesey injury lone setback for Rangers in Game 2 win vs. Panthers

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

While two-thirds of the New York Rangers’ fourth line basked in the spotlight after a thrilling 2-1 overtime win against the Florida Panthers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, their other partner missed the exciting conclusion following a second-period injury.

So, if there was any downer for the home team at Madison Square Garden on Friday, it’s that Jimmy Vesey was knocked out of the game with an upper-body injury following a thunderous open-ice hit by Florida forward Ryan Lomberg.

Following the victory, Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said only that Vesey was being evaluated by team medical personnel. That Vesey left the game favoring his left shoulder and didn’t return is cause for concern, especially with a quick turnaround for Game 3 Sunday afternoon in Florida.

The incident occurred at 12:15 of the second period, when Lomberg delivered a hard shoulder-to-shoulder check after the puck had left Vesey’s stick. The 30-year-old forward went down hard and headed straight to the bench and then off to the locker room.

Vesey has one goal and two assists, playing all 12 postseason games to date. He’s averaging 11:11 in ice time as a staple on New York’s fourth line. During the regular season, Vesey moved up and down the lineup and scored 13 goals and 26 points in 80 games.

If he can’t play in Game 3, the Rangers could insert Blake Wheeler into the lineup. The 37-year-old hasn’t played in three months since sustaining a lower-body injury in a February game against the Montreal Canadiens. However, he’s been practicing and was on ice for warmups prior to Game 2 against the Panthers.

Or the Rangers could bring back Kaapo Kakko after the 23-year-old was scratched for the first time in these playoffs Friday. But that might be unlikely because Laviolette’s juggled lines came through in Game 2 and Kakko isn’t a fit on fourth line, being more of a top-nine forward.

Jonny Brodzinski has played two postseason games and is an option, as well, if Vesey is unable to play Sunday.

Related: Rangers Recall: It’s a ‘Goody’ win to even series against Panthers

Rangers fourth line made its mark in Game 2 win against Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With Vesey back in the locker room, linemates Barclay Goodrow and Matt Rempe continued to do their thing, largely with Will Cuylle skating shifts on their line. Goodrow ended up the overtime hero, scoring the winner at 14:01 after snapping a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky following a give and go with Vincent Trocheck.

“Everybody knows what he brings to the team, every night he’s going to bring the same game,” Trocheck said. “We use him in all different situations. He’s a guy you can count on defensively. You know he’s going to bring his best effort every night, play physical. In these playoffs, he’s been outstanding for us on both ends of the ice.”

Goodrow not only scored the massive overtime goal, but he won 10 of 13 face-offs, blocked four shots and was credited with three hits.

“He’s one of those guys that gets teams to win,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said about Goodrow, a two-time Stanley Cup champion.

Rempe provided a huge lift after being scratched the previous two games. The popular 6-foot-8 rookie played more than 10 minutes, led all skaters with nine hits and couldn’t contain his excitement being trusted with a shift late in regulation with the score tied and one in the offensive zone during overtime.

“I remember ‘Lavi’ calling my name with two minutes left,” Rempe said postgame. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! Let’s go! Jiminy Crickets! Let’s go!’ I was just thrown out there and tried to buzz around. … And then in overtime, I got a little O-zone shift and was pretty excited about that. It was such a blast.”

Cuylle had himself a big game, too. He drove to the net on Goodrow’s game-winning goal, and had four shots and five hits in 16:20 of ice time.

Now Laviolette and Co. must quickly turn the page and make lineup decisions for the Sunday matinee in South Florida. Especially, if as expected, Vesey is unable to play.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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