Zac Jones and Julien Gauthier unlikely Rangers heroes help snap skid
Two very unlikely members of the New York Rangers were the catalysts for ending a four-game slide in Dallas on Saturday.
Zac Jones recorded his first NHL goal and it turned out the be the game-winner giving the Rangers their first victory since a 6-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks on October 17. The 22 year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch the last two games.
Another key player for the turnaround was recent call up Julien Gauthier, who failed to make the team out of training camp.
The 25 year-old, former first-round pick helped set up the Jones’ tally and then using his blazing speed notched the back breaker just 20 seconds later.
Zac Jones agreed with scratch
At the 11:18 mark of the third period against the Stars, Gauthier’s hustle helped start the play where Jones was able to sneak in from the point to convert a Vincent Trocheck set up for the game winner.
After the contest, Jones was naturally beaming with joy scoring talking about his first NHL goal, but was honest about being scratched.
“It was great to get that first one and to help the team get a win, it meant more than the first goal for sure,” Jones said. “I didn’t like my game recently and I thought I deserved to get scratched. I took it as a great learning experience.”
Coming into training camp, Jones was the clear cut winner for the third left defense spot alongside Braden Schneider. A rough patch, including a bad game in a 5-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets led to healthy scratches against the Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders.
Yesterday, head coach Gerard Gallant opted to give the kid another chance and it worked out.
“Fortunately for us we got the fourth goal and it was huge,” Gallant said. “Jones joined the rush like we talked about. He filled in that slot and made that shot. Good for him to get his first goal and I’m real happy for him.”
Jones also registered an assist on Gauthier’s insurance marker and now has two points in 6 games this season. He has 8 points (1G-7A) in 28 career NHL games dating back to 2020-21.
Julien Gauthier impactful in return
After Jones’ tie breaking marker, Gauthier’s speed caught the Stars flatfooted. The big man was able to slip one by Scott Wedgewood, who was caught in no man’s land when he mistakenly thought he could beat Gauthier to the puck.
This was just Gauthier’s second game of the season after being called up when both Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov suffered injuries. He now has 2 points (1G-1A) since returning from the Hartford Wolf Pack.
“I started down in the AHL and got called up so it’s nice to produce,” Gauthier said. “I’m not a quitter. I know I can play in the NHL. I didn’t pout and I wanted to get back up here as soon as possible.”
Gallant was pleased with Gauthier’s game against the Islanders where he used his speed to create several great scoring chances. It was enough to have him scratch one of his favorite players in Ryan Reaves with Kravtsov coming back against Dallas.
“Gauts is Gauts,” Gallant explained. “The way he plays his game, he’s fast, and the good thing is he got an opportunity to come up. So far, he’s taken full advantage of it. He got a goal tonight and assisted on another. Just keep playing like that.”
Unfortunately, Kravtsov was injured again midway through the game which will allow for Reaves to return and for Gauthier to move up to the third line tonight versus the Coyotes. It’s a huge opportunity for him to cement a spot in the lineup.
The Rangers signed Gauthier to a 1-year, one-way deal worth $800,000 per CapFriendly this summer. The deal came amid rumors that Gauthier had requested a trade from the Rangers per The Athletic, which as of today has yet to be rescinded.
Gauthier scored 3 goals and 7 points in 49 games with the Blueshirts in 2021-22. For his career, he’s registered 6 goals and 14 assists for 20 points in 98 contests.
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