A hat trick from Artemi Panarin and a four-point night from Vincent Trocheck sees the New York Rangers go into Tampa Bay and dismantle the Lightning 5-1. With the Rangers second line leading the way, the Blueshirts will ride into 2024 with two more points in the standings, as they look set to enjoy their New Years' celebrations.
It would be the New York Rangers taking the lead early. Alexis Lafreniere knocked a loose puck up the ice for Vincent Trocheck to skate onto, and this effectively created a 2-on-0 with Artemi Panarin. Trocheck picks out the Breadman, and Panarin buries it to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead early in the game as the Rangers best player continues to be white hot.
New York's lead would become two before long. A shot from the point wasn't held by Andrei Vasilevskiy, and the point shot from Jacob Trouba creates a juicy rebound for Trocheck to slap home, giving him his second point of the game, and putting the Rangers in a good position at Amalie Arena up 2-0. New York were playing well, and taking this lead into the first intermission was a good sign of that.
Tampa would bite into the lead on their powerplay. Nikita Kucherov would bring the puck into the Ranger zone, before dropping it to Victor Hedman, and setting up a Steven Stamkos one-timer. The rebound just bounced around in the slot as the Rangers were unable to clear it, and the Lightning were able to work the puck back to Kucherov, and he fired it home to get Tampa within striking distance in this one.
Before the second intermission, the Rangers would get it back. K'Andre Miller worked the puck around the boards for Blake Wheeler, who threw a flip pass up the ice for Trocheck to skate onto. A two-on-one with Chris Kreider leads to a pass from Tro to Kreider, and the Rangers took their two goal lead back. Three points already for Vincent Trocheck, and the Blueshirts were back cruising.
In the third period, the Rangers would extend their lead. Panarin picked up a loose pick in the neutral zone with three Lightning members around him. Seemingly with no one around him, Panarin goes around Hedman, and just fires it past Vasilevskiy. Trocheck also got an assist on this for his fourth point of the night, and Panarin's second goal put him on hat trick watch.
With less than five minutes to go in the game, the Rangers would connect on a four-on-three powerplay. Mika Zibanejad plays the puck to Panarin, who gives it down to Adam Fox at the icing line. Panarin and Fox play catch, until Panarin decides to just rip it, and he completes his hat trick with the only goal of the game Vincent Trocheck did not factor in on. To go up 5-1, and put the game in the back pocket, and cruise into the new year with two points.
In the end, this will be a game that looks like the Rangers were in complete control, but two players lead the way through this one. The Blueshirts candidate for league MVP in Artemi Panarin, and the most underrated player in the league in Vincent Trocheck combined to overcome a Tampa team that can be quite stingy and difficult to overcome if you mess around for too long.