New York Rangers must use comeback against Capitals as a springboard starting with two against the Sabres

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Mar 30, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his third period goal against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers have suffered some adversity this season, but have managed to battle through and get some important wins in the midst of near chaos. Now the team seems to be finding their identity and stringing together some wins. Lately, they have been getting more production from all four lines as well. They were in the middle of a good stretch of hockey before losing two in a row to the Flyers and the Capitals. However, the Rangers were able to rebound and score five unanswered goals to pull out a win Tuesday night.

Rangers continue to be resilient against Capitals

The Rangers lost 5-4 to the Capitals on Sunday. They were down 3-0 going into the third period and went down 4-0 before Colin Blackwell scored to make it 4-1. His goal seemed to spark the Ranger’s offense which had been struggling until then. They were outshot 11-6 in the first and 8-5 in the second. However, the Rangers outshot the Capitals 9-3 in the third. Blackwell scored a second time which just points to how good of a signing he was for the Rangers . He comes up big in crucial moments and seems to be able to play with anyone. The Rangers went down 5-3 on a goal from T.J. Oshie but they weren’t ready to quit yet. Alexis Lafreniere and Chris Kreider each scored to at least make things a bit interesting.

While the Rangers lost this game, the third period was a true show of character. They need to be playing a full sixty minutes of hockey every game; turning up the heat in third period alone isn’t a winning formula. However, it would have been worse for this team’s development if they had simply sat back and played defense for the final 20 minutes on Sunday. This young team needs to learn what it takes to win in the NHL. If the Rangers can play the way they did in the third period on Sunday more consistently, they will have success. Though the comeback fell short, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. That is encouraging as effort was somewhat of a concern earlier in the season.

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Tuesday night, the Rangers found themselves down 1-0 early after allowing a power play goal just 2:23 in. They then gave up another goal 4:22 in. Going down 2-0 early in the first is certainly not an ideal start. However, Filip Chytil was able to get the Rangers on the board with a breakaway goal late in the period. Chytil made an aggressive play to obtain possession and used his speed from there. This play gave the Rangers some jump.

While they didn’t score in the second, they also did not allow another goal. In the third, the Rangers scored four more unanswered to win 5-2. This again goes back to the need to play a full sixty minutes, but it also speaks to their determination. The Rangers need to maintain the level of intensity they’ve displayed in the last couple of third periods they’ve played. Further, this was their first win of the season when trailing going into the third. They are now 1-10-0 in this situation.

Rangers proving they do have depth

The Rangers have been getting more consistent offensive production from all four lines lately. The top line has been playing at a higher level and as one unit. Mika Zibanejad has found his game and has been contributing significantly in all three zones. That definitely helps to fuel the line. Pavel Buchnevich has seriously elevated his game this season and has been mostly consistent. Chris Kreider has also played well, though he has cooled off slightly of late. But he has emerged as a true leader which is important for this young Rangers team.

Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome have excellent chemistry and the decision to add Kaapo Kakko to that line has been successful. While Panarin can sometimes be prone to a reckless pass, his overall playmaking ability is obviously elite. Strome has been able to feed off of that while improving his individual game as well. Strome is currently riding a nine game assist streak and a 10 game point streak. Kaapo Kakko has a goal-scorer’s shot and hadn’t been using it quite often enough. However, he now has three goals in his last five games including one Tuesday night against the Capitals. His confidence is clearly growing as he is holding onto the puck longer and making more plays. Not only is he going to the net to shoot, but also to create space. Tuesday night, Kakko was able to keep the defenseman busy and give Adam Fox room to score.

Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil have been more noticeable lately. They’ve both looked unsure of themselves at times this season and are averaging under 15 minutes of ice time per game. But recently they’ve been more diligent in the defensive and neutral zones late and making every second of ice time count. They’ve both recorded two points in their last five games. Kevin Rooney, along with Blackwell, has shown that he was a worthwhile signing for the Rangers in the offseason. He is a solid fourth line center who can put up points. He is also not afraid to get physical if need be. Depth on the Rangers’ roster was a concern going into the season, but it seems the forwards are really starting to figure it out.

Related: Rangers unsung heroes are shrewd Gorton signings

Rangers must maintain urgency against Sabres

The Sabres had lost 18 games in a row before beating the Flyers. They will most definitely be looking to get a few wins here. The Rangers can expect them to bring some desperation to the game on tonight. The Rangers have shown determination, but they need to keep their foot on the gas. If they underestimate the Sabres, they run the risk of losing a game or two that they should win.

At this point in the season, they can’t afford to be losing these games. If the Rangers can carry the momentum from Tuesday’s third period and continue to play with intensity for sixty minutes, they will be set up for success. Continued production from all around the lineup is also necessary. These things combined will help the Rangers to establish their identity and prove that, despite their age, they can be a competitive team in the NHL.

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