When a team is hot, the mentality is, “You’re only as good as your last game.” Although they had won seven straight, the Rangers dropped a 3-2 decision at the Pittsburg Penguins on Tuesday night and hosted an Islanders group on Thursday that led the season series 2-0.
Nevertheless, fueled by one last opportunity on the schedule to topple their city rivals, the Blueshirts rallied three times en route to a 5-3 win, temporarily knocking the Islanders out of the playoff picture in dramatic fashion.
At the outset, the Rangers were firing on all cylinders. They controlled puck possession, garnered scoring chances, and didn’t allow any Islanders odd-man rush throughout the opening frame. It appeared the Blueshirts would be rewarded for their efforts with a quick power-play goal, but Artemi Panarin rang iron, and the contest remained scoreless. The Isles struck first when captain Andres Lee banked one off of Ryan Lindgren to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.
It was here where Blueshirts coach Gerard Gallant switched Barclay Goodrow and Vitali Kravtsov. For Goodrow, it meant a fourth-line job with Julien Gauthier, replacing the poor play of Sammy Blais, while Kravtsov was on the third line with Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Vesey.
Later in the frame, the Rangers received a five on three, as Scott Mayfield hooked Panarin, and 45 seconds later, Noah Dobson lifted the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. After not scoring on their first try, the Blueshirts succeeded on the next one. The beautiful puck movement saw Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad open up the triangle from right to left, finished by a breadman clapper into the yawning cage that evened the game at one.
The Islanders would retake the lead in the second period when a Kaapo Kakko turnover forced by Josh Bailey led to a Mathew Barzal breakaway, who then went upstairs on Igor Shesterkin just 2:39 into the middle stanza. As a consequence of his mistake, Kakko only saw the ice three more times during the rest of the period but was encouraged by Zibanejad and Chris Kreider to stay the course and keep his head up, which would prove vital later in the game.
Seeing the extended ice time as an opportunity to prove he should be a mainstay in the lineup, Gauthier took a cross-ice pass from Goodrow, gained speed down the right, and slipped the disc past Ilya Sorokin to square the score. “It’s never pleasant, honestly,” Gauthier said when asked postgame about what it feels like being a healthy scratch. ”
Sometimes it’s just not fun or easy to be the scratched guy, but when you go back in the lineup and play tonight, you’re trying to make the most of it.”
Momentum in hand, the Rangers sought the lead, but Sororkin stood tall, and it quickly led to pressure at the other end, which resulted in Alexander Romanov’s first goal and Islander on a shot from the point to put his team in front 3-2. The period would end with both teams exchanging penalties resulting in a slew of scoring chances, but the goaltenders rose to the occasion and kept the match up for grabs entering the third period.
The Islanders entered the final 20 minutes 11-0 when leading after 40, but it didn’t take long for the Blueshirts to make a dent in it, as Goodrow tipped home a shot from his new linemate Gauthier, and it was 3-3, 3:00 minutes into the third.
The ensuing 14 minutes saw the teams hit two posts each, and after the Islanders killed off two more Rangers power plays, it seemed as if we were destined for overtime.
However, Kakko had other plans and would redeem himself for his earlier error with 2:47 remaining when he took a feed from the wall to the slot, courtesy of K’Andre Miller, and roofed it home, sending MSG into a frenzy. Thirty seconds later, Vincent Trocheck sealed the win by fighting off three defenders at center ice before hitting the empty net to give the Rangers New York bragging rights for the night with a 5-3 victory.
Marv’s 3 stars:
3 Kaapo Kakko
It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish, which is the route Kakko’s night took. He showed impressive mental fortitude and rebounded from a lead-costing blunder in the second period with the game-winner in the third. One of the reasons for the Rangers’ recent 9-2-1 stretch has been the hot play of Kakko, who is up to nine goals on the season and has five in the past eight games. He’s been the driving force of a red-hot kid line that also saw Alexis Lafreniere record an assist for his sixth point in nine games.
2, Julien Gauthier:
Gauthier’s speed on the fourth line was refreshing, especially his instant connection with Barclay Goodrow. After Sammy Blais’s mental mishap in Tuesday’s loss at Pittsburg, it opened the door for Gauthier, who took full advantage of the opportunity with a game-tying goal and a game-tying assist to boot.
1 Barclay Goodrow
This postgame quote from Gerard Gallant perfectly sums up the versatility skills of the 29-year-old forward. “Every time Goodrow plays with somebody, he makes the line look good.” With his tally on Thursday, Goodrow has now scored on every line he’s played with this season. He currently leads the team with eight even-strength goals and now ranks 18th in the league with 1.12 goals per 60:00 among forwards who’ve played at least 425 minutes.
Defensively, Goodrow has been displaying the keen defensive playmaking skills that allowed him to be a third-line staple for the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers purchased him for six years at a $3.642 million AAV in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round pick (Dyllan Gill) in the 2021 off-season.