Rangers make a statement in 5-2 win over Panthers

Feb 1, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) reacts after scoring a goal with teammates against Florida Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight (30) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 1, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) reacts after scoring a goal with teammates against Florida Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight (30) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) reacts after scoring a goal with teammates Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) reacts after scoring a goal with teammates Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Rangers try to avoid those “statement games.”  Coach Gerard Gallant prefers to treat every game the same way with concessions to the quality of the opponent. But after blowing three straight two goal leads, even Gallant had enough.  He called out the team and that made this game against one of the best teams in the NHL indeed a “statement game.”

Was it ever.  After a loose first period that ended in a 1-1 tie, the Rangers turned it on.  After allowing an early power play goal to Florida, the Rangers scored the last four goals of the game for a decisive 5-2 win.   They beat a team that had lost only twice in their last 17 games and they did it without the best defenseman and the best right winger.  They held the most high powered offense in the NHL to just two goals and they did it with a six man defense that is the youngest on a playoff-bound team.

The Panthers score over four goals a game and had scored 22 goals in their last four contests.  The Rangers stopped them dead in their tracks.

Coach Gerard Gallant was pleased. “That was perfect. The last two periods was great. We battled back from a tough first period…I was real happy with how the team responded. I thought we came out in the second and third period, and we put pressure on them, made them turn the puck over…it was a different game.”

Okay, we won’t be getting too giddy about this win.  The Panthers did get 36 shots on goal and had the Rangers on their heels several times, especially in the first period.  But at 5v5 the Rangers had 51 shot attempts to Florida’s 46.  They had 12 high danger scoring chances to nine for the Panthers. Their power play was three for five and they stopped Florida on two of three man advantages.  Oh yeah, and Ryan Strome beat up Mason Marchment.

Gallant said that fight was a key.  “The hit and Strome was a big part of the game, changed a lot of things for us…it did the job. I wouldn’t tell a guy to go fight, but the way it came down, he’s an important player but you can’t not respond to a guy hitting you like that. Strome did a great job.”

As the Rangers go off on their two week vacation, they need to remember this game.  It’s the recipe that they need to follow to be successful.  Win the special teams battle. Get the puck deep every time they can, then forecheck like crazy with heavy hitting on the walls.  No dumb turnovers in center ice.  And when all of that fails, let Igor Shesterkin see the puck so he can make the saves.

This was not a game that they “stole.”  It wasn’t the case of them winning a game that they could have or should have lost.  They won this game and won it big.  They can play with the big boys.