It took a total of six seconds for the Rangers to take control.
The Rangers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3 at the Garden last night thanks to a quick strike, two-goal sequence late in the first period.
With the score tied 1-1, Mike Zibanejad sent a blistering wrist shot from right off the face off that beat Toronto back up goalie Micheal Hutchinson. On the ensuing face off at center ice, Chris Kreider, who played a strong game in his return from an upper body injury, took the puck and drove hard towards the net where, six seconds after the first goal, he beat Hutchinson with a back hand shot to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead that energized the Garden and put the Leafs on their heels. Zibanejad felt the two-goal outburst gave the Rangers a huge boost. “A lot, no doubt about that, especially against this team,” he said.
Kreider missed Monday’s loss to Dallas after he took an accidental knee in the head from Zibanejad during Saturday’s win in Detroit. “Felt okay, didn’t feel great when it happened, twisted my neck pretty good,” Kreider said after the game.
“Comin back from the scary incident, missing one game, give him a lot of credit for stepping up and picking up, really where he left off,” coach David Quinn said after the game.
Kreider’s name has been prominently mentioned in trade talk as the February 24th deadline approaches. Scouts were SRO on the bridge and Kreider gave them something to talk about.
Back in December, the Leafs came into the Garden and whupped the Rangers in a 6-3 win. To their credit, the Rangers got some payback in Toronto eight days later but they needed to avenge their poor showing in front of the diehards.
Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves as he recorded his fourth win in five starts this season. Shersterkin came up big in the second period when it seemed like the Leafs spent most of the period in the Rangers zone. “I thought in the second period, Igor made some really big saves,” Quinn said.
The Leafs featured a high powered offense so the Rangers had to be on top of their defensive game. Kreider said the key was keeping the puck in the Maple Leafs zone as much as possible. “That’s a team that wants to play offense. Any team you can keep them in their own zone, get pucks behind their “D” and make then play defense, I think it’ll certainly help your cause,” Kreider said.
Kreider: “That’s a team that wants to play offense. Any team you can keep them in their own zone, get pucks behind their “D” and make then play defense, I think it’ll certainly help your cause.”
The enigmatic Pavel Buchnevich had a strong game with a goal and two assists. “I thought Buchnevich was outstanding tonight. He really bounced back from a tough night (Monday’s loss)
Quinn is trying to push right buttons with Buchnevich, a very talented player, who, at times, can frustrate the head coach. “It’s like going to an amusement park. Sometimes you get the high rides and you have a helluva time and then you wait in line,” Quinn said. “You wait to get on the ride, you get frustrated and aggravated. He’s a good player, he’s a real good player. He’s had a real good year for us. Sometimes guys just need a little jolt.”
Coming out of the break, the Rangers have won three of four, with two more to go on this home stand, as they attempt to make a push for the playoffs. The Rangers are nine points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference so making the post season is a bit of a long shot because they would first have to leap over three other teams.
This very young Ranger team has improved from the start of the season. They are still very inconsistent, but have shown they have the foundation of a team that, in a year or two, will be a Stanley Cup contender.