The kid line was “Flaming hot” entering the all-star break, and their fine play continued on Monday, as Filip Chytil netted two goals and Alexis Lafreniere scored the overtime winner, propelling the Rangers to a stunning 5-4 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames at a raucous Madison Square Garden.
It was an affair that featured everything you would want in a hockey game, from bone-crunching hits resulting in fights to jaw-dropping saves, controversy with the review center, skillful goals, and of course, a dramatic finish.
Henrik Lundqvist put it best on the MSG network postgame show when he said, “To play that type of game, you need a lot of energy,” which both teams displayed in their returns following the NHL’s all-star break.
Here are my takeaways from the mayhem that transpired at the world’s most famous arena.
THE RED-HOT KIDS:
Some fans were still settling into their seats when Chytil took a forward pass off the boards from Kaapo Kakko, who received the puck from Adam Fox and sped up ice with Lafreniere for a 2-on-1 rush, but rather than passing, snapped a shot past Jacob Markstrom 5:37 into the contest to put New York on the board first and extend his scoring streak to five straight games.
After Calgary tied things midway through the first period, when Blake Coleman took advantage of soft defense by Adam Fox and poked his chance past Jaroslav Halak, the youngsters delivered again early in the second period, courtesy of another Chytil goal to put the Rangers back in front. The breakaway tally off a Nazeem Kadri turnover was the 29-year-old’s 10th goal and 14th point in his last 12 contests, something the center relished as chants of his name came down from Rangerstown.
All in all, the kids played to the tune of a 52.9% Corsi and a 69.5% expected goals percentage in 10:48 of ice time, with two of them earning enough of coach Gerard Gallant’s trust where they were allowed to be out there in the three on three overtime period.
Hard-Hitting is where the Rangers captain has thrived this year, and the Troubador didn’t take long to seek out his latest victims. At the 13:57 mark of the opening frame, the defenseman drilled Dillon Dube near the Rangers’ zone, leading to a fight with Chris Tanev, who was penalized due to instigating. The hit inspired Sammy Blais, who delivered a blow to Milan Lucic at 16:16 of the first; Nikita Zadorov dropped the mitts with him, while Will Cuylle fought MacKenzie Weegar.
In the second, Trouba would give his power playmates a redeemer’s chance after he laid out Kadri, whose helmet went flying, before engaging in a bout with Dube, who took the Flames’ second instigating infraction, one that would come back to haunt them. While that was happening, the fans took the opportunity to shower #8 with chants of his name for the first time since he was given the captaincy last Summer.
Three minutes after Tyler Toffoli’s man-advantage rocket squared the score for Calgary, New York celebrated a successful use of their power play prowess due to their leader’s second scrap in as many periods.
After receiving the puck on the right side, Artemi Panarin looked for Mika Zibanejad, but seeing as he was covered, fed Chris Kreider down low, who then set up Zibanejad with a no-look seam pass for a quick wrister to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead entering the third period with their captain to thank for that.
Noteworthy on the play was Panarin’s assist avenging his gaffe of jumping on the ice early, causing a too-many-men penalty, which resulted in an irate Gallant and Toffoli’s game-tying goal. Ultimately, that wasn’t the only time on Monday we saw the emotions of the Rangers bench boss get the best of him.
With 13:20 remaining, the Flames made it 3-3 when Andrew Mangiapane kicked home a pass from Noah Hanifin.
Viewing various angles of the replay, broadcasters, reporters, fans, and players all agreed there was a distinct kicking motion by Mangiapane. Still, Toronto didn’t seem to think so, and the call was upheld, much to the chagrin of the Garden crowd, who watched helplessly as Micheal Stone blasted the biscuit past the rattled New York goaltender two minutes later for Calgary’s first lead of the night.
“I thought it was kicking, for sure,” a puzzled Gallant said, “but you move on and try to get the next one.”
A MEMORABLE FINISH:
Following Stone’s stoic go-ahead tally, the Rangers mounted sustained pressure in the offensive zone and netted the equalizer when Panarin fed Zibanejad from behind the net. The Blueshirts leader in goals beneath the hashmark roofed his shot over Markstrom with 7:05 left in regulation to tie the score at four.
In overtime, where Gallant usually rides his stars, the coach tapped two of the kids, Lafreniere and Chytil, for the frame. Chytil recorded two more golden opportunities, as Elias Lindholm blocked his look at the open net before Markstrom denied him on his rebound attempt off a shot by Panarin to keep Calgary alive. Then with 3:33 left, Kadri’s shot hit Mangiapane, leading to Lafreniere breaking out of the zone with the puck for a two on one odd man rush with Zibanejad.
After Mika’s one-timer was stopped, the puck rolled away from the cage, giving way for Laffy to hustle back into the play and fire the winner into the back of the net, sending the fans into a frenzy, punctuating the most entertaining game I’ve been able to cover in my young sports writing career.
MARV’S THREE STARS:
HONORABLE STAR: Jacob Trouba:
His two clean hits energized the crowd and set the standard for the spirited battle.
3. Alexis Lafreniere: The overtime goal should do wonders for the winger’s confidence, and if he gets cooking, the kid line could be graduating to a new moniker shortly.
2. Mika Zibanejad: Per NYR stats & info,” Mika “Zibanejad’s 14 power-play goals are tied for the third most in the NHL. In addition, Zibanejad has tied Vic Hadfield for the sixth most power-play goals in Rangers history (83).”
1. Filip Chytil: The burgeoning center continues to add to the upcoming payday he’ll be receiving this Summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. Chytil’s confidence has skyrocketed, and he’s quickly establishing himself as one of the most underrated players in the game.