Rangers find their game late and avoid embarrassing loss; Chytil healthy scratch

This was a close call. Way too close a call for a New York Rangers team that is starting to see itself as a contender.

“We looked pretty tired at times, but we battled and found a way to win,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after completing another back-to-back.

Matter of fact, that was the Blueshirts 6th game in just 9 days that included two sets of back-to-backs. So being tired is understandable. Although, if they would have lost to the worst team in the NHL, it would’ve been inexcusable.

Rangers rally in the desert

Kappo Kakko scored his second goal of the game during a power play with 2:18 remaining in the third period and the visiting New York Rangers rallied for a 3-2 victory over the league-worst Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night in Glendale, Ariz.

Kakko was on New York’s first power-play unit because Artemi Panarin left the game for undisclosed reasons after playing the first period and just one shift in the opening minutes of the second period. Gallant termed the injury as “minor” and listed Panarin as “day-to-day.”

At 17:01 of the third period, Arizona was penalized for having too many men on the ice.

On the ensuing power play, the Rangers maintained possession and were able to effectively move the puck around. Defenseman Adam Fox whipped a pass to Ryan Strome, who quickly dished the puck to Chris Kreider at the right side of the crease. Kreider moved the puck to Kakko, who slipped by Arizona’s Lawson Crouse and put the puck under goalie Scott Wedgewood.

“I got a chance on the first power play. I didn’t know it was that simple to go to the net and keep your stick down,” Kakko said with a smile. “It was a big win for us.”

rangers coyotes
Dec 15, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) celebrates a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood (31) during the third period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kakko scored the first goal for the Rangers midway through the second period. Mika Zibanejad got the primary assist on that goal, and he scored on a third-period power play.

Kreider collected three assists as the Rangers avoided taking three straight regulation losses for the first time this season. The win also propelled them back into a first place tie in the Metro Division.

“I like the way we battled back,” Zibanejad said. “Power play came up big.”

Chytil scratch a lesson?

Before the game, third line center Filip Chytil was scratched in favor of Greg McKegg.

Chytil, 22, is starting his fourth full season with the Rangers after debuting for 9 games at the end of 2017-18. For all his size, speed, and skill, the youngster still struggles to be consistent. That issue is only compounded when he doesn’t look engaged as he did in his last two games against Nashville and Colorado. He registered just one shot in each game, winning just 3 of 8 draws.

“It’s a one game thing,” Gallant said of Chytil’s scratch. “Sometimes you need lessons. I’m not saying it was a lesson tonight but Kegger’s been a great guy for us, so we’ll see where it goes.”

The Rangers have to be concerned with Chytil’s lack of progress. The first round pick (21st overall) of the 2017 Draft has only 7 points in 25 games this season and regressing from last year’s .52 points per game average.

Furthermore, the organization’s lack of centers in their prospect pool makes them hesitant to place Chytil back on the wing where he’s had the most offensive success in his young career.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this report.