Mika Magical on opening night as New York Rangers zap Bolts
The New York Rangers came out like a team possessed from the opening face off until the final buzzer.
With the bad taste the Tampa Bay Lightning left in their mouths last season in the Eastern Conference Final, the Blueshirts took it to their opponent and came away with a 3-1 win.
They were led by the magical play of Mika Zibanejad who finished the game with 2 specialty teams goals, including the game-winner.
Recap: Rangers 3 vs Lightning 1
The Rangers came out strong and hard in the opening frame. On several occasions they used their speed and quick passing to gain a step on the slower Lightning players. Unfortunately, the referees didn’t deem a trip and hook on a partial Vitali Kravtsov breakaway a penalty. Nor did they deem a hook against Chris Kreider an infraction to name a few. Officiating would be a theme throughout the game.
After several missed penalties, the referees finally made a call when Erik Cernak held Kaapo Kakko in the corner with 3:47 remaining.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was brilliant on the ensuing power play making four stops including Kreider on the doorstep to keep the game scoreless.
Earlier in the period, Vitali Kravtsov left the match after a hard hit into the boards by Victor Hedman. On the replay, Hedman appeared to put a knee into the youngster’s chest and then proceeded to shove his head down. He did not return and Alexis Lafreniere replaced him on the second line right wing.
“He’s day-to-day, upper-body,” Gerard Gallant said of Kravtsov’s injury. “He’ll be evaluated tomorrow.”
An early Vincent Trocheck hold in the second period led to a Tampa Bay power play.
Despite the man advantage, it looked like the Rangers were a man up. The Rangers up-tempo PK was rewarded with a beautiful tipsy-doodle goal by Mika Zibanejad, who roofed it over Vasilevskiy on the backhand at 3:25. K’ Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba picked up the assists.
Unfortunately, the uphill battle against the referees continued when they elected to call two penalties on the same play. First, it was Miller for a trip and then Barclay Goodrow for an elbow both on Brandon Hagel.
On the two-man advantage Steven Stamkos tied the game at the 9:09 mark with a blast over the glove of Igor Shesterkin.
The Rangers found themselves on the PK again early in the final frame when Goodrow was called for a trip. This time they were able to kill off the minor and gain some momentum.
Goodrow would come out of the box and draw a high-sticking penalty on Vladislav Namestnikov and the Rangers would make short work of the man advantage.
Mika Zibanejad set up shop in his sweet spot and fired a one-timer through the wickets of Vasilevskiy. Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider picked up the helpers 5:11 into the third.
“I thought the power play was really good tonight,” Trouba said after the game. “[Mika] is a great teammate and a special player.”
The Rangers once again found themselves shorthanded with Ryan Carpenter being called for a questionable hold. However, Shesterkin held the fort to allow Carpenter some redemption.
With 9 minutes left in the period, Carpenter picked up his first point as a member of the Rangers. He corralled the puck behind the net and sent it up to Ryan Lindgren. His shot would then be deflected by Goodrow in front for a 3-1 lead.
Late in the game with the goalie pulled, Zibanejad just missed an empty-net for the hat trick as it went off the post.
“I thought we played our game from minute one,” Zibanejad noted. “I think a lot PP and PK today and it was good to get that going. It turned out pretty well.”
In the end, the Rangers were simply the faster and stronger team. When the final buzzer sounded the Blueshirts outshot the Bolts by the wide-margin of 39 to 27.
“It’s what I expected,” Gallant said afterwards. “I knew the intensity would pick up from the preseason and I thought we played great.”
- Igor Shesterkin stopped 26 of 27 for his first win of the year
- Mika Zibanejad’s 2 goals gives him 11 points in 7 career season openers
- Artemi Panarin’s assist was his 250th point as a NYR
- Ryan Carpenter picked up his first point in his first game as a NYR
- NYR won 64% of their draws
Tomorrow (Wednesday, October 12): Practice at 12 PM (MSG Training Center)
Next Game: Thursday, October 13 at Minnesota (8:00 PM ET – TV: MSG)
*Schedule subject to change
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