Bread-Trick Heroics and Will Cuylle’s Redemption:
In the second period, Jacob MacDonald again played spoiler, knotting things up for the Sharks with a power-play goal.
Needing a pick me up, the Rangers captain came to the rescue. Jacob Trouba made a slick move in the defensive zone. He spotted the loose puck and launched a high-flying pass to Bonino, who casually gloved it down at center ice. Bonino wasted no time, tossing a soft pass to Cuylle. The kid zoomed into the zone, split the defense, and slammed a shot past Blackwood for a 4-3 lead going into the second intermission.
Cuylle’s celebration was a mix of pure joy and maybe a tad bit of relief. The rookie had been stuck in a 10-game goal drought, but he silenced the doubters and gave the Blueshirts the edge after two periods.
Panarin wasn’t done showing off in the third period, snagging a hat-trick with a gritty rebound goal after Brodzinski disrupted San Jose’s defensive flow. Trocheck’s slick assist set the stage for Panarin’s third.
As if three goals weren’t enough, the Breadman turned playmaker set up K’Andre Miller, who unleashed a clapper to make it 6-3. It was the fifth even-strength tally of the night for the Rangers. It marked their 35th in the last 13 games after starting the season with 13 in their first 10.
The Sharks tried to rally with two quick goals, courtesy of Fabian Zetterlund and Alexander Barabonov. Suddenly, it was a nail-biter at 6-5 within 1:22.
With his boys reeling, the two-time reigning coach of the month used his timeout. “We lost focus,” Panarin said. It continued the trend from Saturday in Nashville when New York allowed 41 shots. “It wasn’t the ultimate game,” Zibanejad lamented. “We could’ve done a better job of not making it so interesting in the end, but we’ll take the points from this weekend.”
Notably, the Blueshirts have struggled to defend off the rush and rank towards the bottom of the league in that category. It’s a facet of their game they’ll want to correct fast should they wish to reach their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Three of the last four champions (‘19 ST Louis Blues, ‘20 Tampa Bay Lightning, ‘22 Colorado Avalanche, ‘23 Vegas Golden Knights) ranked in the top five in defending off the rush.
In the closing seconds, the Rangers held strong against San Jose’s surge, securing their third consecutive win. Included in the defensive effort down the stretch was Alexis Lafreniere.
“You get people [Trocheck line] that push the game offensively and are winning games for you, they want that opportunity to finish a game when you’re up,” Laviolette said. “There’s a trust that goes there. Right now they’re on top of their game, they’re driving our team. Got to give them a chance to finish the game as well.”
With the victory, Jonathan Quick, who made 23 saves, improved to 7-0-1 on the season. It wasn’t easy, but the Blueshirts found a way. Good teams win ugly, and they did that.