The New York Rangers saw two multi-goal leads break away from them during their annual trip southwest to take on the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
By the end of it, the only thing broken was the stick of Arizona goalie Mike Smith, who bashed it against his own net after allowing the final charge of a 6-3 Rangers victory, completing their third consecutive season sweep of the hapless Coyotes. The tally that set off Smith’s tantrum proved to be personal history for one of the newest Rangers, as Matt Puempel, claimed off waivers on November 21, tallied his first career hat trick.
The Rangers (25-12-1) got off to a fast start, going on a power play mere seconds into the game when Jordan Martinook was called for tripping. That’s when Puempel, who now has points in three of the past four games, put in his first, an attempted pass that went off a Coyotes defender, for the early 1-0 lead. On another power play, earned when Luke Schenn went to the box for interference, Nick Holden scored his third goal in the past two games, good for a 2-0 lead. Arizona managed to strike into the lead with a goal by Christian Dvorak.
In the second period, the Rangers tallied an even strength goal via Chris Kreider, but the Coyotes (11-20-5) slowly began to break through. Antti Raanta, making his second consecutive start, made some clutch saves but couldn’t stop one from ex-Ranger Anthony Duclair, who scored his second goal in as many games, his third of the year cutting it to 3-2. As the third period featured chippyness galore, Arizona officially knotted things up with Tobias Rieder putting in the tying score, and continued Arizona pressure seemed to spell the Rangers’ doom.
However, two reliable sources on the evening, Puempel and the Rangers’ power play unit, came through big in the end.
With Martin Hanzal serving a penalty, Puempel deflected a Ryan McDonagh shot for
what became the game winning goal. Afterwards, the Rangers got an empty netter from JT Miller, and were set to conclude the game on another power play when Oliver Ekman-Larsson was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. However, Puempel struck once more, deflecting another teammate’s shot, this time that of Brandon Pirri’s, for not just his first multi-goal game, but his first career hat trick. Attempt to preserve the historic puck was delayed by Smith’s tirade.
Including Puempel, four Rangers had multiple points, including Holden, Miller and Kevin Hayes, who had three assists.
The Rangers will now not only conclude a brief western trip, but also finish out their 2016 slate with a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Colorado Avalanche (8 PM, MSG+).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490