After dropping two very winnable games against two very weak teams, the New York Rangers snapped a two-game skid by beating the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers came into Monday"s game at Madison Square Garden riding a two-game losing streak which included a poor loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. In that loss, Ranger captain, Jacob Trouba was trying to get his team going and threw two open-ice hits that led to two fights. Despite all of these efforts, the Rangers lost miserably in that one and desperately needed a win in front of their home crowd to put themselves and their fanbase at ease.
It was the Blueshirts who scored first on Monday night when the Rangers forechecked well and a loose puck came to sophomore defenseman, Braden Schneider who would one-time the puck high over Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington‘s blocker side at 17:14 of the first period. However, this game was a slugfest as evidenced when the Blues responded a little more than one minute later. At this point former Ranger and current Blues winger, Pavel Buchnevich avoided a check near the net of Igor Shesterkin and swatted in a rebound to tie the game at one.
The first period went on without another goal until 0:27 remaining and that is when former Norris Tropny-winning Ranger defenseman, Adam Fox scored a cool wrister on the power play to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
However, Just 12 seconds into the second period, Blues winger, Vladimir Tarasenko pounced on a loose puck in the low slot and flung it at Shesterkin but it deflected off Adam Fox"s stick and into the net to tie the game at two. The goal scoring would not stop, no because the Rangers clapped back with a third goal at 1:07 gone by in the first period. This time it was the Rangers biggest offseason signing and second line center, Vincent Trocheck who tipped in a wrist shot from the point by Artemi Panarin, which gave New York a 3-2 lead. Then, halfway through the second period, young Ranger winger Alexis Lafreniere took a holding penalty at 9:25, which led to St. Louis tying the game on Jordan Kyrou‘s one-timer.
Two minutes later, the Rangers were looking bad when they failed to clear their zone. This led to Blues captain, Ryan O"Reilly backhanding a rebound past Shesterkin at 7:25, which gave St. Louis their first lead of the game. That was how things stood heading into the third period when at 4:48, strong Ranger defenseman, K"Andre Miller skated along the blueline and fired a wrist-shot that beat Binnington. Miller"s shot made it to Binnington unfettered but slipped between his glove and right pad before bouncing behind him and into the net.
The next ten minutes passed where the Rangers defense held firm but the Broadway Blueshirts were not done pleasing their raucous crowd. Of course, they had it all planned, a signature Chris Kreider goal to cap things off. The man who led the Rangers with 52 goals last season picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and went flying past the Blues defense on a breakaway. Kreider would make a simple but effective forehand to backhand deke before sliding the puck through Binnington"s five-hole to give the Rangers a 6-4 cushion with six minutes left. The Rangers held on to beat St. Louis and snap a two-game skid on Madison Square Garden ice.
What Monday Night"s Win Meant
The victory that Gerard Gallant"s Rangers gained against the St. Louis Blues was a rallying cry for many reasons. Firstly, the Rangers came into this game in fifth place in the Metro division. So, by earning the two points, they kept pace with their division rivals, the Islanders and Penguins who rank in front of Gallant"s team as of now.
But for some of the Ranger players, the way they have played this season has fallen way short of the expectations they set for themselves and the team heading into the 2022-23 NHL season. Remember, during last year"s playoffs, Gerard Gallant guided the Rangers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were a very strong, experienced opponent for last year"s Rangers because they had won two consecutive Stanley Cup championships leading into last season and for a young Rangers team to hang with them was a great sign.
However, as things stand today, the New York Rangers are a long way from where they were last season. This included finishing second in the Metropolitan Division and falling just a couple of points short of winning it. At this moment, Gallant"s team is in fifth place in the division and one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card spot. Now it is very early in the season but Kreider, who has been a Ranger for a longer time than any other Ranger (the 2011-12 season) described the frustration that has crept into the Ranger locker room during the last few weeks, which has seen his team fall further and further behind in the race for the Metro division.
What"s Next for the Rangers
Even though the Blueshirts managed to snap a small but painful losing streak on Monday night, the upcoming schedule looks extremely tough. Starting on Wednesday, the Rangers will head out on a road trip where they will face the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, whose 39 points are the second most in the National Hockey League. Then they face the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Friday night, which is always a tough game before returning back to the Garden to face the New Jersey Devils who are tied with the Boston Bruins for the most points this season.
Overall, last night"s home victory was important because it, at least, gives this team some confidence and some sense of normalcy heading into a short but rugged western road trip and four games that will be as tough a stretch of games that the team will face all season.
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