In what has been the best week in recent Rangers memory due to the team’s five-game winning streak and acquisition of all-star Vladimir Tarasenko, along with shutdown defender Niko Mikkola in a trade with the ST Louis Blues last Thursday, the Blueshirts kept the good vibes rolling and won their six straight with an offensive barrage in Vancouver on Wednesday night.
Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin had two goals each, while Chris Kreider made history en route to a 6-4 victory over the Canucks to sweep the season series. It was the third straight game in which the Blueshirts amassed six goals, also doing so in Friday’s 6-3 victory over the Seattle Kraken and Saturday’s 6-2 triumph at the first-place Carolina Hurricanes.
While the Rangers didn’t play their best hockey and must tighten up their defense ahead of Friday’s clash against the high-flying Edmonton Oilers, a win is a win. Here are my takeaways from the victory.
Of all the Rangers enjoying this hot stretch, Panarin’s play has reached, as he put it last Saturday, “Another level.” Following his 4-goal, five-point performance on Saturday, the breadman tallied two more in the first period on Wednesday.
After Curtis Lazar tipped a Dakota Joshua net front shot past Igor Shesterkin, only to be answered by Zibanejad sliding one through the five-hole of Arturs Silovs, who was making his NHL debut 59 seconds later, Panarin deposited a right-to-left feed from Jimmy Vesey, putting New York up 2-1 7:03 into the contest.
Then, in response to JT Miller capitalizing on a stick-less Shesterkin with a power play rifle, Panarin tipped a Niko Mikkola point shot, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead after one period of play, and would later record an assist on Zibanejad’s empty-net goal in the third completing his three-point night. The 31-year-old has six goals in the past two games since Gallant reunited him with Vincent Trocheck and Vesey on the second line and is riding a five-game point streak, over which he has collected 11 of his team-leading 62 points on the season.
KREIDER MAKES HISTORY:
The top line featuring Chris Kreider, Zibanejad, and Vladimir Tarasenko, tallied three goals on the night, none more prominent than the one 50 seconds into the second period where all three forwards were involved. After blocking a shot in the defensive zone, Tarasenko found a streaking Mika, who fed it across to Kreider, who fired the 251st goal of his career, and 22nd of the season, into the back of the net, passing Mark Messier and sliding into seventh place on the franchise’s all-time goals list.
IGOR’S OFF NIGHT:
Despite dictating the play most of the contest, the Rangers’ deficiencies at the back end allowed Vancouver to remain within striking distance. Failure by the defense to clear the puck as the Vancouver power play expired resulted in Andrei Kuzmenko, the puck between the legs of Adam Fox and hitting the crossbar before Connor Garland roofed home, slicing the Canucks deficit to 4-3.
Yet with seven minutes remaining in the frame, the Rangers would take advantage of an exasperated Vancouver defense, and K’Andre Miller would score what stood up to be the game-winner. Following a win in a puck battle near the left wall, Jacob Trouba found Filip Chytil, who backhanded the puck to Miller, setting up the defenseman’s blast for a 5-3 New York advantage entering the second-period intermission.
The Blueshirts were outshot 15-6 in the third, as the Canucks, akin to their 4-3 loss at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday, made things interesting when Kuzmenko snuck one under the arm of Shesterkin, making it a 5-4 game, before Zibanejad’s empty netter with 1:34 left sealed it.
It was the eighth time this season that the reigning-Vezina trophy winner yielded four, adding to what has been a reality-check year for him after his historic 2021-22 campaign. However, he’s still been good enough to remain one of the top goaltenders in the league, and his play is expected to elevate in the playoffs, which is all the Rangers could ask for after he nearly carried the team to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
The clunker could be a testament to the fact Shesterkin is used to being called upon every other night, but due to the bye week and Jaroslav Halak’s hot play, he has only made three starts this month.
MARV’S 3 STARS:
3 K’Andre Miller(1 goal, 3 hits, 3 blocks, 19:43 of ice time, game score of 3.12)
2 Artemi Panarin:(2 goals, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 hit, 17:41 of ice time, game score 4.04)
1. Mika Zibanejad (2 goals, one assist, one takeaway, won 54.5% of face-offs, 17:11 ice time, game score 4.43, now on a five-game goal streak which ties a career-high)