The New York Rangers did it again, rebounding from an embarrassing 7-4 loss to the Devils to come back and play one of their best all around games of the season to dismantle the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1. As far as statement games go, this was one helluva statement.
Coach Gerard Gallant was thrilled with the win. “I was really happy with the way we played all night. No turnovers, very few. It was nothing like the other night. That’s the way we can play. We played pretty good in Tampa, but tonight was probably our most complete game.”
There was no doubt that the Blueshirts came to play as they swarmed the Penguins from the opening shift. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then killed a double minor penalty. Coach Gerard Gallant said that the penalty kill was crucial.
Gallant said “To me the turning point was killing that four minute penalty at the end of the first period. If they would have got one, it’s a different story. But it takes a lot out of them when they don’t score on that four minute power play.”
Gallant acknowledged that the addition of Andrew Copp and Tyler Motte to the penalty killing unit has made them even better. Copp led all Rangers with 3:17 minutes on the penalty kill, even more than Mika Zibanejad.
The Rangers never let up, even with the three goal lead, adding a shorthanded goal in the second period and a final even strength goal in the third.
The real turning point for the game might have been when Gallant filled out his lineup card. It was a night for experimentation for the coach and he completely revamped all four lines and returned Braden Schneider to the lineup. All of his moves worked as much as they didn’t on Tuesday.
Frank Vatrano was moved to the right wing of Zibanejad and Chris Kreider while Andrew Copp played on the right side of Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. Jonny Brodzinski returned to the lineup, replacing Ryan Reaves.
Alexis Lafrenière was returned the his natural left wing position with Chytil and Goodrow and that line had a very good outing. He led off the Rangers scoring just two minutes into the game. He blocked a shot in the defensive zone and then joined the rush putting home a pass from Chytil. “I think we played pretty good as a line….it was good, Goody’s always doing the right things and Fil’s speed is the key to our line. It’s a lot of fun playing with them and we’ll try to keep it going.”
In this game we got a hint of how deep this lineup could be as all three top lines scored. And this is with Kaapo Kakko and Kevin Rooney still out with injuries.
With the likelihood that the Rangers could face Pittsburgh in the opening round, the way the Blueshirts so thoroughly dominated the Penguins was notable. It was impressive.