New York Rangers send message to the NHL that they’re contenders

New York Rangers
Jan 19, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) and center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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There was plenty of hype coming into the game against one of the top teams in the NHL. In the end, the Maple Leafs came out strong but fell to Rangers by a final score of 6-3.

For Toronto, that was a test against one of the League’s best.

Oh wait. You thought that was a measuring stick game for the Rangers? Well, that’s not how they see it.

New York Rangers see themselves as a top contender

The Madison Square Garden crowd was electric looking for a big start from their hometown Rangers. Despite a slow beginning that saw them down 3-1 after one period of play, the team stayed resilient. They clawed back to even it up after the second and then blew the doors off Toronto in the final frame.

Ryan Strome scored the tiebreaking goal, Chris Kreider scored his 25th goal and Adam Fox and Ryan Reaves each scored twice as the New York Rangers rallied for a 6-3 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Strome snapped a 3-3 tie with 9:10 remaining by capitalizing on an easy opportunity. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren’s shot from the above the left circle was blocked by William Nylander but the puck caromed to Strome, who positioned himself at the right doorstep and tapped the puck into the vacated right side of the net.

Kreider made it 5-3 nearly five minutes later by joining Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin as the fourth player to reach 25 goals when he lifted his own rebound over goalie Jack Campbell’s right pad.

rangers contenders
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Reaves recorded his second career two-goal game as the Rangers won for the seventh time in 10 games (7-3-0). Fox netted the tying goal late in the second period and capped the comeback with an empty-net goal with 2:24 remaining.

“I think we know (that we are contenders),” Reaves said. “I think some of the league doesn’t believe it. We’re going to keep doing our thing. I mean, the standings don’t lie.”

New York goalie Igor Shesterkin made 17 of his 38 saves in the third period. He also stopped his last 27 shots and highlighted the third with a left pad save on Nylander’s breakaway early in the period and a right pad stop on Pierre Engvall’s partial breakaway with about 7 1/2 minutes left.

“For how young we are, we’re mature,” Reaves said of the comeback. “We battle through adversity pretty well… It shows that we can hang with the big boys, that we are one of the big boys. We’ve got to keep beating the playoffs teams. We’re proving to the league and to ourselves that we are a contender.”

Maple Leafs head coach accentuates the point

Ilya Mikheyev and Mitch Marner scored in a 46-second span as Toronto had the game’s first seven shots. Michael Bunting also scored in Toronto’s three-goal opening period. At that point, a lot of people thought the Rangers would be run out of the building.

“I was a little worried to be honest with you,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We came out a little sleepy.”

The Rangers came out strong in the second period and tied the game at 3-3. They then rode the wave of momentum to double up the Leafs and left them in a state of bewilderment.

“I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe admitted.

New York even stopped one of the hottest Leafs players as Auston Matthews was unable to score for the 11th straight road game. He had a goal overturned by replay with 3:52 left in the third because of a distinct kicking motion.

In the end, the Rangers improved their home record to 11-0-2 when leading or tied heading into the third period. Another test awaits on Friday. This time it is division rival Carolina, in the end the question that will need to be answered is which team is trying to measure up to whom?

Just don’t ask the Rangers, since they believe they’ve become the standard which teams should compare themselves to.

New York sits two points over Carolina in the Metro Division standings.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this report

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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