As everyone in Rangerstown prepares for showtime to take center stage on Thursday, the Tarasenkshow took advantage of its final day in the spotlight. Vladimir Tarasenko recorded two goals and an assist, including the overtime winner, which lifted the Rangers to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center, sending the team on a happy flight back to New York, where their newest teammate awaits them.
The 31-year-old acquired a month ago from the ST Louis Blues, admitted he’s found it “difficult” to adjust to the robust style of play in the Eastern Conference after spending more than a decade out West. Yet on Wednesday, he looked right at home. “He lacked confidence before and wants to show his best every game, so I’m happy for him tonight. He was a big help to us”, Artemi Panarin said.
The victory was fitting in that it was spearheaded by the first of GM Chris Druy’s deadline pieces and led right into Thursday night’s tilt at Madison Square Garden against the Ottawa Senators, where Patrick Kane will make his highly-anticipated debut in a Rangers sweater. “After 11 years of playing against him, it’s nice to join the same team finally”, Tarasenko said when asked about Kane, “The biggest thing is, we believe we can go for a Stanley Cup.”
Winning a championship requires sacrifices along the way, and game 61 of the Blueshirts’ quest was no different as they went with 11 forwards and five defensemen while unable to call up anyone to replace the injured Ryan Lindgren or the suspended K’Andre Miller due to their lack of remaining cap space following their latest move.
THE SWEET 16:
In the days leading up to the Kane trade, New York had to jump through many cap space hoops to get there, even though they would only be acquiring him at 25%($2.62 million) of his $10.5 million salary.
On Sunday, due to them trading Vitali Kravtsov to the Vancouver Canucks for prospect Will Lockwood and a future seventh-round pick, demoting Jake Leschyshyn to Hartford, and the short-term injury to Ryan Lindgren, the Rangers needed to call up Ryan Carpenter to meet the CBA requirement of 18 skaters if the team is cap compliant which New York was at the time.
Only while the CBA rules were playing chess, Druy was playing checkers and prohibited Gallant from using Braden Schneider or Carpenter to prevent injury, knowing both would need to be sent d own(In Schneider’s case until the trade happened) to accrue enough cap space for Kane.
Things became dicey when K’Andre Miller was given a match penalty and eventually a three-game suspension for spitting at Drew Doughty and when Mika Zibanejad went down on all fours after blocking a shot before leaving the game unable to put any weight on his wounded leg, New York was down to 14 skaters, as well as only four defensemen (Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, Niko Mikkola, and Ben Harpur) initial talk of pulling the plug on potentially adding #88 began to surface.
Luckily to the delight of the crowd and Rangers fans everywhere, Zibanejad returned for the third period and scored to send MSG into a frenzy, capping off a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings to snap their four-game skid and keep the organization’s cup aspirations alive. While Kane was in flight and getting situated in his new quarters, the team willingly skated understaffed and found their legs in the third period and overtime to capture a feel-good victory.
“I feel like, when you see the D is playing a long game, we just try to take care of each other,” Tarasenko said, “It doesn’t matter how many guys play. Just play for a win every game.” The result of the short bench allowed Adam Fox to showcase his relentless motor, as he logged 29:42 in ice time on ice, leading the team.
After dictating much of the even-strength play in the first period, New York displayed signs of fatigue in the second. Mika Zibanejad kicked off his “Mika March” with a power play goal at 2:51 of the first period off a feed from Tarasenko. Still, a man-advantage tally by Owen Tippet on the Flyers’ third try tied it at 1.
In the second, lazy defense, soft goaltending, and a lack of urgency from the visitors allowed Philadelphia to control possession, which they would pounce on when Scott Laughton beat Igor Shesterkin on the short side at 11:16 of the frame for a 2-1 lead. “That period stunk,” Ranger coach Gerard Gallant said, “We responded well in the third.”
Gallant admitted “something was said” in the locker room between the second and third periods. While it was unclear what exactly that was, reports are it sounded akin to the one he gave in Edmonton when he repeatedly stated, “We’re not losing this game,” only to be proven right when the team rallied for an enthralling 5-4 shootout victory. While they didn’t light up the scoresheet in the last stanza, they cycled well, won board battles, and received timely saves from their goaltender.
Who stopped 26 on the night and stymied the Flyers’ attack with their forecheck. At the 10:33 mark, Tarasenko’s turnaround shot was tipped in by Chris Kreider, ultimately sending the contest to overtime, where Vladdy thankfully played hero. “It’s important to know how comeback, but I don’t think we should play like this, the Tarasenkoshow said, “We can play better.” The team is poised to do that on Thursday when showtime arrives in style.
MARV’S 3 STARS:
3 Mika Zibanejad(1G, 2 shots, 2 hits, 2 blocks, 61% faceoff win % in 18 shifts, 20:08 of ice time)
2 Igor Shesterkin (26 saves on 28 shots, +.031 Goals Saved Above Expected)
1 Vladimir Tarasenko( 1 G, 2A, 2 hits, 15 shifts, 17:20 of ice time)