Dive into the MSG Madness as Alexis Lafrenière stole the show, leading the New York Rangers to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in a thrilling spectacle filled with controversy.
When there’s a will, there’s a way, especially with Alexis Lafrenière stealing the show. The 22-year-old winger scored twice in an enthralling 4-3 New York Rangers shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Trailing 3-2, the MSG crowd erupted, shaking the press box as Lafrenière tied the game with just 11 seconds left. It removed all the disdain from the controversial officiating going against New York earlier.
Lafrenière, wearing a big smile, said, “That was cool. The crowd was deafening tonight. To tie it that way, it was fun.”
The excitement didn’t stop there. Lafrenière nailed the only successful shootout attempt, securing the Rangers’ 11th win in 14 games. As they enter a five-day break, New York is 11-2-1 and is on a ten-game point streak.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette knew Lafrenière was feeling it, shifting him in the shootout lineup due to his stellar performance. He was tapped for the third round, lifting a backhand over Elvis Merzlikins for the eventual winner. With seven points in a four-game point streak and seven goals this season, Lafrenière’s proving his critics wrong.
Yet Lafrenière remains humble, crediting his success to “really good linemates” and staying focused on consistency. Laviolette noted the impact of Lafrenière’s line, including Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, who are also shining. “When they’re on the ice, good things are happening constantly.”
Lafreniere, Rangers Fight Through Adversity:
Chris Kreider spoke about the Rangers’ needing a solid start, but despite the early momentum, they couldn’t seal the deal, allowing Columbus to take advantage. The Jackets scored with 3:34 left in the first period, as Justin Danforth tipped Erik Gudbranson’s shot past Quick through traffic.
Throughout the period, the Rangers had plenty of odd-man rushes but couldn’t capitalize, either missing passes or shots. Towards the end, they finally converted when Wheeler hustled to chase down a puck after a Mika Zibanejad clear, setting up Erik Gustafsson, who fed Chris Kreider for a goal to tie the game at 1-1. It marked Kreider’s 10th goal in 14 games but only his third in a five-on-five situation.
The 31-year-old defenseman, a bargain with his $825,000 contract, has stepped up in the absence of Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, who has 10 points in the season and maintains a four-game point streak. He’s also been a strong presence defensively. Before his assist, he stole the puck twice and found Zibanejad for the clear.
The Rangers were sloppy in the second period as Columbus peppered Jonathan Quick, who stood tall. Yet they grabbed a 2-1 lead, thanks to their golden trio – Panarin, Trocheck, and Lafrenière. Panarin pushed the puck to Trocheck, who put a cross-ice pass on Lafreniere’s tape at 11:17. Panarin’s assist tied him with Rod Gilbert – for the longest Blueshirts point streak at the start of a season. He’s on a 14-game heater with 16 assists and 24 points, first in the Eastern Conference.
However, Columbus flipped the script minutes later, scoring two quick goals in 19 seconds for a 3-2 lead. The Blueshirts were trying to clear the puck, but it went south. Rookie and 2023 third overall pick Adam Fantilli seized the opportunity, firing a wrister to tie it. Then, Sean Kuraly jumped on a rebound after Alexandre Texier’s shot. He beat defenseman Zac Jones to the puck and scored, giving his team the lead.
Then, the No Goal heard around New York City arrived. Will Cuylle’s shot got stuck between Merzlikins and the post, Kaapo Kakko flew in, whacked at the rebound, and scored. Everyone’s sure it’s in – even the Rangers fist-bump on the bench. Merzlikins shook his head in disappointment.
The NHL situation room in Toronto reviewed it for several minutes. Panarin and Gustafsson were skating around restless. Finally, they ruled it was after the play was dead. The crowd was outraged.
After the call, the crowd serenaded the refs, giving them an earful. The MSG Jumbotron also threw some shade, saying, “Hmm, I’m going to have to disagree.” The whole place was buzzing with disbelief and frustration.
The Rangers brought the heat in the third period before the extended break, outshooting the Jackets 17-3. They had a five-on-three but couldn’t crack Merzlikins. They fired shots at the net but repeatedly missed it. The shots were 40-28 Blueshirts, but they could’ve had 60 with the number of pucks fired wide. With eleven seconds left, Chris Kreider grabbed a rebound from a stopped Panarin shot and set up Lafrenière for a goal that sent MSG into a frenzy.
However, the final period saw the Blueshirts missing defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who left the game after a hard hit from Kuraly. The referees gave New York a five-minute power play before reducing it to a minor boarding penalty.
Laviolette noted the apparent hit to Lindgren’s head, saying they should’ve stuck with the initial call. It’s an upper-body injury, with concerns about a possible head injury.
Despite the challenges, the Rangers gave it their all, with Panarin clocking a career-high 28:02 time on the ice. Defensively, K’Andre Miller played 27:29, Gustafsson 26:18, and Jacob Trouba 22:54. Offensively, Trocheck played 26:28, Lafreniere 24:13 and Zibanejad 23:10.
Quick made 26 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts, securing the win and second-star honors, sandwiched between Merzlikins and Lafreniere.
With the team in the first place, all is great in Rangerstown. Yet, as Quick stressed, there’s still a long journey ahead. “You kind of look at the ways we’re winning. It’s power play sometimes; sometimes it’s PK, five-on-five, got some overtime wins. It takes everybody. That’s what you need from your team. You’ve got guys chipping in when needed, and it’s fun right now. But we also have to understand we still got a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”