There was a buzz at the Garden Friday night as Ranger fans were expecting something special from their newest acquisition and Vladimir Tarasenko did not disappoint.
Tarasenko, who was cheered in warm ups and received a standing ovation when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup, wasted no time in introducing the Madison Square Garden crowd to what he can bring to the Rangers. On his second shift, the dynamic right wing scored his first Ranger goal, less than three minutes into the game to set the tone in a 6-3 win over the gritty Seattle Kraken.
“He’s really excited, just from meeting him this morning, he’s really excited,” Coach Gerard Gallant said after Tarasenko’s impressive debut. “It’s a great way to start his career here with the Rangers, score on his second shift out there.”
The win was the Rangers fourth in a row. They’ve won 11 of their last 15 and completed a four game sweep of their homestand which began before the all star break. It was also their fifth straight win on Garden ice and the Rangers have won 12 of their last 15 home games.
Chris Kreider had two assists to extend his point scoring streak to four straight games. Vincent Trocheck, Ryan Lindgren and Kappo Kakko each had a goal and an assist, while Adam Fox recorded his 40th assist. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves to earn his 23rd win of the season.
It took just 2:49 into his Blueshirts career for Tarasenko (who was the #1 star) to score his first goal as a Ranger. Playing on a line with good friend Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, Tarasenko was able to capitalize on his good friend’s playmaking skills.
“I know [he] [Panarin] can make a play so just try to get open,” a smiling Tarasenko said after the game. “Sometimes we try too much but we enjoy playing with each other already.”
On their second shift, Panarin came down the right wing and made a beautiful feed to Tarasenko who was able to deflect the puck past Kraken goalie Martin Jones from in front to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead and send the Garden into a frenzy. Chants of “Ta-ra-sen-ko” were heard a few moments later. “I was thinking I was mis-hearing but, it’s amazing,” he said. “Like I said, I had a very warm welcome. So far, it’s very good, I’m very excited.”
Tarasenko’s new teammates did not “mis-hear.”
“That was impressive,” Zibanejad said. “Obviously an exciting player, unbelievable player that joined us. for him to be able to score that early on a pass from “Bread” [Panarin]. That was awesome.”
Less than five minutes later, Kakko scored to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Kakko ended a 16 game goal scoring drought and tied his career high of ten goals. With the kid line on the ice, Alexis Lafreniere passed the puck from behind the net to Filip Chytil who took the shot, but the puck appeared to deflect right to Kakko who was able to steer it into the open net. With the assist, Chytil extended his point scoring streak to six games, although his five game goal scoring streak came to an end.
Trocheck’s goal at 14:29 capped off an impressive first period.
Kreider passed the puck to the Rangers center who skated in front of Jones. The puck came loose and was in the crease and Trocheck dove over Jones and put it in for his 15th goal of the season and a 3-0 lead after one.
The Rangers began the second period on the power play and they took advantage. Jacob Trouba back handed the puck in front and it deflected in off Seattle’s Will Borgen for his fourth goal of the season. Trocheck and Kakko had the assists as the Rangers took a commanding 4-0 lead.
Seattle doesn’t quit and they showed that as they got on the board just a minute and four seconds after the Ranger goal.
Kraken RW Oliver Bjorkstrand came off the bench and caught the Rangers on a change. Bjorkstrand took a pass from Eeli Tolvanen and flew into the offensive zone and fired the puck past Shesterkin to cut the deficit to 4-1.
The Rangers killed off two Seattle power plays and skated off with a 4-1 lead after two.
The Rangers, who were 3 for 30 on the power play coming into the game, were two for three with the man advantage. Their second power play goal, early in the third, gave the Rangers a 5-1 lead. “We’ve had chances before. A couple of adjustments in the units and we got a little spark,” said Zibanejad.
With former Islander Jordan Eberle in the box for taking a high sticking penalty in the offensive zone, Zibanejad cashed in on some pretty movement of the puck to score his 26th goal of the season. It was Mika’s 15th power play goal, good for third in the NHL and it also gave him 84 power play goals with the Rangers, which lifted him past Vic Hadfield into sixth place on the franchise’s all time list.
The Kraken wouldn’t quit and they got back into the game in a hurry as they scored two goals in 22 seconds to cut the Rangers’ lead in half.
Niko Mikkola, who was making his Rangers debut, had a rough night as he was in the penalty box for a third time in the game for hooking when Jared McCann scored on a blast from just outside the left face off circle that Shesterkin never saw to make it 5-2 at 5:59.
22 seconds later, Brandon Tanev skated in front and slipped the puck through Shesterkin’s legs and suddenly, a four goal lead was cut in half.
A delay of game penalty was called on Mikkola, third of the game (puck appeared to hit the shaft of the stick) giving Seattle their fourth PP but Rangers killed it off to keep the two goal lead.
Despite his time in the penalty box, Gallant felt Mikkola did alright. “I thought overall he was good,” Gallant said. “He’s exactly what we wanted, he’s a big, strong guy. I think he’s gonna be real good for our group.”
Later in the period, the Rangers were on the power play when Tanev broke in shorthanded, on what was a delayed penalty, and was stopped by Shesterkin. Fox was called for tripping Yanni Gourde in the offensive zone, negating the man advantage with 3:48 left in the third period.
Seattle pulled Jones to make it a 5 on 4 advantage and when McCann came back, it was a 6 on 4, but Ryan Lindgren got possession of the puck and fired it down the ice into the empty net for his first goal of the season to regain the three goal lead.
It was an impressive debut for Tarasenko, and one that seemed surreal to Zibanejad, who told of his reaction when he first heard the news on Thursday. “It was exciting, I didn’t believe it at first,” he said.