The NY Rangers rewarded all their East Coast fans that stayed up late to watch them by saving their best period (of the game, and arguably the season) for last as they tallied four goals in the 3rd to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-1.
While still flawed, the Blueshirts game exhibited many positive, encouraging signs that could bode well for the rest of the season. One of those occurred 6:49 into the first period as Kaapo Kakko (as snakebit as anyone can be) tipped a K’Andre Miller long shot into the net for a 1-0 lead. Gerard Gallant wisely kept the line of Kaako, Mika, and Laf together, and they were active and productive all night. So while the first period didn’t provide any more scoring, the Rangers probably had one of their best defensive periods of the season (albeit still with a few too many giveaways), as they effectively focused on being strong on the puck and the opponent.
Unfortunately, as has been the case several times this season, they lost their way in the 2nd period. Vegas reversed their fortunes and completely dominated the 2nd period in both shots and play. They finally broke through on a 5×3 power play and tied the game at one on a beautiful pass in the crease from Stephenson to Marchessault 13:38 into the period. Only some timely and stellar saves from Igor Shesterkin (who had fairly more manageable periods in the 1st and 3rd) kept Vegas from taking the lead.
Here was another game that saw the Rangers tied with their opponent heading into the 3rd period. The results of that scenario have been mixed, but last night, the team responded with a flourish, finally resembling the strong 3rd-period squad of last season.
The scoring began on a power play that welcomed a familiar sight to the Rangers and their fans. Artemi Panarin (three assists on the night) found Mika Zibanejad for a one-timer laser past Thompson for a 2-1 lead. Instead of the home team answering back, the Rangers rode this wave of momentum and scored 24 seconds later. Panarin broke up a play near center ice and made a pass that sprung Barclay Goodrow into the offensive zone. Goodrow then sent a beautiful pass to a streaking Filip Chytil, who didn’t miss, putting the Rangers up 3-1.
This scoring burst seemed to invigorate the Blueshirts and deflate the Golden Knights as the Rangers tightened their grip on their inevitable victory. Ninety seconds later, Alexis Lafreniere found himself at the side of the crease with an empty net. After a quick fumbling of the puck, he was able to lift a shot over a sprawling Thompson for a 4-1 lead. Not only did the tally give the Rangers a nice cushion, but it meant The Kid Line (though not together) all scored in the same game. That outcome could be just as important as the win itself.
Vegas had one more sign of life as they went on a power play nine minutes into the period, but a Mark Stone penalty quickly negated that. The Rangers eventually ended up on a quick 5×3 power play of their own (as the Golden Knights began to lose composure), and Mika again unleashed a lethal snipe for his second goal of the game and a 5-1 lead that would be the final score.
Despite the subpar 2nd period, this overall effort and result was precisely the elixir the Rangers needed. A strong defense, an effective power play, and some 5×5 offense provided by their young stars will bestow a formula for success. The Rangers’ fortunes for this season can begin to turn in their favor if they can continue to replicate that path in the future.