The Rangers had not won in Calgary since 2018 but they overcame a sluggish start to score three goals in the second period, two on the power play, as they extinguished the Calgary Flames with a 3-1 win at the Saddledome. It was their second in a row on an early, but pivotal five game road trip.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson had a goal and an assist, Alexis Lafreniere made it two straight games with a goal, Filip Chytil had two more assists and Igor Shesterkin gave up an early goal but blanked the Flames the rest of the way as the Rangers snapped a four game losing streak in Calgary. (Ironically, the last win in Calgary was also by a 3-1 score).
The only blemish for Shesterkin came just a minute and 15 seconds into the first period. Calgary’s Blake Coleman was left wide open in the slot and he cashed in the opportunity as he beat Shesterkin to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
After that, the former Vezina Trophy winner played his usual strong game, keyed by a couple of pivotal saves in the second and third periods.
The Rangers were trailing 1-0 in the second when Coleman very nearly had his second goal of the game as he was looking at a wide open net. Shesterkin, who made 23 saves, somehow denied Coleman who failed on a second attempt off a rebound.
“He was really good tonight,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “There certainly saves that were really important throughout the game, especially in the third period, there were some real beauties.”
The save total was low but the Rangers blocked 24 shots, but having to make that many blocks was because they were spending too much time in their own zone. “When you’re blocking shots, that means you’re playing too much defense,” Laviolette said. “It’s courageous they’re doing that and that’s a good thing but you want to be down in the offensive zone where you’re not doing that.”
Even though the Rangers trailed 1-0 after one, they were storming the Calgary net in the final five minutes of the first period with numerous scoring chances, so it boded well for the second. The Rangers power play continues to execute and it clicked twice to give them the lead in the second period.
With the second unit on the ice, Gustafsson fired a shot from just inside the blue line and Lafreniere pulled a Kreider as he tied the game on a pretty deflection from in front to beat Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom. It was the third goal of the season for Lafreniere, who is off to a good start this season.
Less than seven minutes later, Kreider cashed in another power play opportunity to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Artemi Panarin, who is playing as well if not better than he had all of last season, was at the top of the right circle when he found Kreider, who was alone to the right of Markstrom, who was 9-2-2 vs the Rangers coming into the game. The Rangers veteran winger was able to put it in the net for his team leading fifth goal of the season and third on the power play at 14:09.
Adam Fox had his fifth assist of the season on Kreider’s goal but he was hearing it all night from the Flames fans who have a long memory. Every time Fox touched the puck, the fans booed the former Norris Trophy winner who was chosen by the Flames in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft but refused to sign with the team.
Panarin had his fifth assist of the season is off to a fast start (3G, 5A, 8P) and for the second straight season, he’s scored at least a point in six straight games to start the season. (Rod Gilbert holds the Rangers record by scoring a point in 14 straight games to start the 1972-1973 season while playing on the famous “G-A-G line” along with Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield).
With a little over three minutes left in the period, Gustafsson, who has fit in nicely so far as part of the third defense pair and on the second unit of the power play, scored his second goal of the season to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
The teams were 4 on 4 when the Rangers were cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Chytil took the puck and fired a shot from the slot. Markstrom couldn’t handle the rebound and was out of position as Gustafsson was in the right spot to put in an easy one for his second goal of the season.
It was another assist for Chytil who has five in his last two games and six points overall but he is still looking for his first goal. Chytil’s line, along with Panarin and Lafreniere, continues to play well.
“Season’s still real young but just to get some games with the same guys is really good. Obviously, Fil and Bread are amazing,” Lafreniere said.
Rangers will go for three in a row Thursday night in Edmonton. Three time and reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid is out but the Oilers are still a dangerous team so it will be a good test for Laviolette’s squad.