Swept in the regular season series by the New York Islanders for the first time since their intrastate rivalry commenced in 1972 last season, the New York Rangers took advantage of a prime opportunity in their first game of the season to ensure that horror wouldn’t happen again.
Rangers returnee Chris Kreider had two points via a goal and an assist, while newcomers Brandon
Pirri and Mika Zibanejad also had two point debuts, with Pirri’s power play score becoming the game winning goal, and the Rangers topped the Islanders by a 5-3 final on Thursday night.
Having gone 0-3-1 against the Islanders last season, the Rangers (1-0-0), looking to fully eliminate the sour memories of last season, were able to instantly cross a name off their revenge list on the very first night of the new year, at least temporarily. Ironically, it was a former Islander who got things started, as Michael Grabner commenced scoring for the 2016-17 season with a goal past Jaroslav Halak with 6:19 remaining in the 1st period. Late in the next frame, Mats Zuccarello, off milestone assists from Brady Skjei and Zibanejad, put one in for a 2-0 Ranger lead. With the helpers, Zibanejad picked up his first point as a Rangers, while Skjei tallied his first NHL regular season point.
The night wasn’t perfect, as the Islanders (0-1-0) finally hit pay-net in the 3rd period. Nick Leddy sliced the lead in half in the frame’s opening minute, while Cal Clutterbuck deflected a Nikolay Kulemin shot past Henrik Lundqvist less than four minutes later to knot things up. However, with numerous Ranger legends in the building, part of a pregame ceremony commemorating the team’s 90th anniversary, Rangers new and old united to create an pleasant opening night memory.
Just before the midway mark of the 3rd period, Pavel Buchnevich earned his first NHL point in style, getting a long pass to Kreider, who sped past Travis Hamonic for an open opportunity on Halak. Despite taking a slash from Hamonic that would’ve drawn a penalty sans a goal, Kreider, who needed eight games to score his first goal last season, powered the goal past Halak to give the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. In addition to Buchnevich, further assistance was provided by Nick Holden, who tallied his first point in blue.
Holding off a pesky Islander rally, the Rangers spent the latter stretches of the final period doing two things that evaded them last season, the lack of these activities having cost them several wins. First they scored on the power play, with Brandon Pirri, picking up where he left off from a hot preseason, taking advantage of a John Tavares penalty with a goal off assists from Kreider and Zibanejad. The other thing was that they took advantage of an empty net, as JT Miller was able to put the game away with Halak on the bench, completing the diverse Ranger scoring on the evening. Brock Nelson added a late goal in the penultimate minute of the game for the Islanders, but it was too little, too late as the Rangers took the game 5-3.
Behind five goals from five different scorers, as well as 25 saves from Lundqvist, the Rangers won their opening night game for the third consecutive season. Their five goal output is their highest production in a season opener since a 6-3 win in Buffalo in October 2010. The Rangers outshot the Islanders 39-28, seven of those shots coming from Kreider, who led all shooters in the game.
With their season opener crossed off, the Rangers hit the road for the first time this season on Saturday night, when they take on the St. Louis Blues (8 PM, MSG).
Rangers season is officially underway! Stay tuned to blueshirtsnation.com for all the coverage.