That was more like it, right?
For the first time in six weeks, we saw who these New York Rangers truly can become when things are clicking. It had been a struggle recently due to injuries, roster management, and integrating trade acquisitions into their system despite the team racking up points in the standings.
“We got 5 out of 6 points on the trip”, Vincent Trocheck said following Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss at the Pittsburg Penguins, “But I think we all know in here that we need to be better.” They were on Tuesday night. New York’s 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals, albeit without Alex Ovechkin and Sonny Milano at Madison Square Garden, was their best performance since the trade deadline and marked their first regulation victory since February 26th against the Los Angeles Kings.
For most of the contest, the Blueshirts looked the part of the Stanley Cup contenders they are on paper, as they moved the puck efficiently, forechecked effectively, and capitalized on the man advantage. “That’s the standard for us now,” said Patrick Kane, who sent the crowd into a frenzy with his first goal in the home Blue sweater. “We can look back on that opening period and see how we want to play.”
A FRESH START:
The Rangers dominated from puck drop, led by the newly-minted first-line trio of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Vladimir Tarasenko, who contributed to the offensive output with two goals on 14 shots, and Zibanejad being the receiving end of both of them.
The first one came a mere 4:09 into the game, with a give-and-go between Zibanejad and Tarasenko through the neutral zone led to a one-timer past Darcey Kuemper, giving the Blueshirts an early 1-0 lead.
The subsequent second line of Chris Kreider, Trocheck, and Kane would then hold down the fort, keeping Washington shot-less on the evening until the 11:42 mark, when a slight hiccup in defensive coverage led to a clear-sight tally from Nicolas-Aube Kubel, who roofed it over the glove of Igor Shesterkin, evening the score.
Yet if the reigning Vezina trophy winner was frustrated about being beaten cleanly, he didn’t show it and kickstarted a quick offensive response 16 seconds later with his nifty stick work. “Seeing him for a couple of games now, when he gets that puck, you’ve got to be ready for it”, Kane said of Shesterkin. The goaltender flung the puck down the ice, hitting Panarin in stride, who then backhanded a feed to the slot, where Zibanejad deposited his second of the contest.
SHOWTIME ON BROADWAY:
It took six games overall, and two home tilts, but showtime finally looks comfortable on broadway. Kane seemed as confident as he did during his final days in Chicago when he netted 10 points in 4 games, and after a tentative first two showings in his new colors, he has turned it around with five points in his last four games.
The newest Blueshirt roared when he rocketed a power play tally with 1:49 remaining in the first period, punctuating a stanza where the Rangers outscored the Capitals 3-1, and outshot them 19-9. “That first period was outstanding,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “We did everything right and didn’t turn over pucks.”
The second period started out even better, as Kane fed Trocheck(Or Cricket Green for those who watched the animated broadcast of this game on Disney channel instead of the nationally televised ESPN feed), who then sent a seam pass to captain Jacob Trouba for a historic goal, as it was the Rangers second consecutive goal at the 4:09 mark of a period, a first in franchise history.
“It’s getting there,” Kane said of the chemistry with his new teammate, “I still think there are certain things I can do to help me get into a rhythm a little more, as far as getting pucks. I’m just trying to study that and keep improving daily.”
SWEATING IT OUT:
All four of New York’s lines played a winning role in this one, as even though the kid line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko didn’t score, the effort was there with sustained offensive zone pressure to go along with their seven shots on goal and the feisty fourth line of Tyler Motte, Jimmy Vesey, and Barclay Goodrow continued their meat-grinding of other opponents depth pieces with their physical play.
Washington proved resilient despite being undermanned as needing every last point to remain in the playoff hunt, they upped their intensity and drew closer with a late second-period goal from Matt Irwin and a third-period wrister from Nic Dowd at the 11:52 mark to make it a 4-3 game.
The latter half of the frame would feature waves of pressure from the Capitals as they searched for the equalizer, but Shesterkin stood tall as part of his 28-save night, and Jimmy Vesey would hit the empty net with 2:11 remaining to seal the victory.
“When it was 4-1, we were playing great up until that point”, Gallant said. “Then we were trying to get too cute and make the fancy plays again. But in the first period, everything worked. They went to the net, skated hard, reset pucks, kept it simple, and it was really good.”
MARV’S 3 STARS:
3 Patrick Kane(One goal, one assist, six shots, one hit, one block, 13:20 of ice time)
2 Mika Zibanejad( Two goals, five shots, one hit, one block, one takeaway, 18:47 of ice time)
1 Igor Shesterkin(28 saves on 31 shots, one assist)