Rangers Recall: Kaapo Kakko’s feel-good night highlights win vs. Kraken

NHL: Seattle Kraken at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With contributions coming from up and down the entire lineup, the New York Rangers pieced together a nice 5-2 win at home against the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.

So, make it two in a row for the Blueshirts, who put more distance between themselves and a season-long four-game losing skid (0-3-1) that preceded wins against the Washington Capitals and Kraken.

“The balance was good, the scoring was good. We really hadn’t had that the past few games,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It seemed like we were pressing, pressing, pressing but we couldn’t get it to go (in). [Tuesday night], it was nice to score some goals.”

Let’s take a look back at some key takeaways from the Rangers’ second straight victory.

Rangers Recall: Feel-good night at The Garden

NHL: Seattle Kraken at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kaapo Kakko scores!

With a goal that brought the Blueshirts Faithful to their feet and a smile that lit up The Garden itself, Kaapo Kakko found the back of the net for the first time since Nov. 20.

Playing his second game after missing 21 straight with a lower-body injury, Kakko skated between the circles and buried a gorgeous Mika Zibanejad feed off the rush to give the Rangers a comfortable 4-1 lead at 17:10 of the second period. The Garden absolutely erupted and Kakko couldn’t have looked any happier.

Good for him.

Missing a quarter of the season because of injury is no fun. It was one of the biggest Rangers’ disappointments in the season’s first half. But to Kakko’s credit, he’s fit right in alongside Zibanejad and Chris Kreider in his first two games back, generating chances and playing a diligent defensive game.

Laviolette said postgame that he thought Kakko could have scored a couple goals Sunday against the Capitals. And the 22-year-old had a terrific scoring opportunity in the first period against the Kraken but sailed the shot wide.

He made no mistake on his third goal of the season, though. Seeing how his teammates reacted to the goal told you all you need to know about how they feel about Kakko and having him back in the lineup.

Rangers receive contributions from entire lineup

Kakko wasn’t the only one to find the score sheet again Tuesday. Ten different Rangers had at least one point. Included in that group were Blake Wheeler, who scored two goals in just 9:51 of ice time; Erik Gustafsson, who scored his first goal in 32 games; and Jonny Brodzinski, whose assist on Wheeler’s first goal was his first point in 11 games.

New York received goals from three of its four forward lines and another from an offensive defenseman, who, well, had stopped generating offense.

Laviolette spoke pregame about how much he liked Brodzinski between Wheeler and Will Cuylle in the bottom six. That trio stayed together Tuesday after Laviolette put that line together on the fly against Washington. And it was a wise decision.

“I thought that line was good, I thought they were noticeable [Tuesday night],” Laviolette said postgame. “[Brodzinski] can attack the ice. He’s got that jump to his step where he can push teams back.”

That’s exactly what Brodzinski did when controlling the puck deep in the offensive zone to start the scoring play on Wheeler’s first goal at 12:32 of the second that made it 3-1 New York. Wheeler finished with a neat tip of a Brodzinski shot past Kraken goalie Chris Driedger, with Cuylle also adding a big net-front presence.

And the timing off Gustafsson’s goal can’t be overlooked. The Kraken had tied the game 1-1 with a power-play goal just 28 seconds before Gustafsson sent a shot through a Kreider screen and into the net to restore New York’s lead at 11:09 of the first period.

Igor Shesterkin sharp in Rangers win

The Rangers upped their lead from 2-1 to 4-1 in the second period not because they were the superior team. They did so because they had the superior goalie.

Seattle came out flying in the second, firing seven shots on goal in the first four minutes and 16 overall in the period. Shesterkin stopped each one. He bailed his teammates out time and again, maintaining the Rangers’ one-goal lead until Wheeler and Kakko provided breathing room.

Shesterkin finished with 29 saves, interestingly stopping all 29 shots he faced at even strength and allowing two goals on two power-play shots. But the 28-year-old was the difference in the game. And he’s now saved 53 of the past 56 shots in defeating the Capitals and Kraken.

“You hate to rely on [Shesterkin] to make the amount of high-quality saves but fortunately for us, that’s why he’s world class,” Wheeler said. “He made a bunch of big ones for us.”

Shesterkin again was the difference maker for the Rangers.

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