Many complained about the New York Rangers’ defense last season. However, with offensive performances like the one on Monday night, the detractors will have another complaint on their list silenced.
Mats Zuccarello had 3 points, Chris Kreider added a couple more, and Jimmy Vesey scored his first career NHL goal, and the Rangers downed the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks 7-4 at Madison Square Garden.
Seeking redemption for Saturday’s 3-2 loss and missed opportunity in St. Louis, the Rangers did what they failed to do in a dominating third period on Saturday night in the early going…score. Marc Staal put in his first goal of the season past Martin Jones just before the midway mark, and the Rangers took the early 1-0 lead. It was Staal’s first goal since January 14 of last season.
San Jose knotted things up just before the end of the period, as Logan Couture put it in on a 5-on-3 advantage, put the Rangers took the lead for good when Rick Nash scored his first goal of the season, putting it just below Jones for the score. Kreider, as well as Ryan McDonagh, assisted for their first point each on the evening. McDonagh would also provide the primary helper on Kreider’s power play goal later in the period, putting the Rangers up 3-1. It was Kreider’s third goal of the season, and with the couple of points, he became the only player in the NHL this season to have two points in his first three games of the year.
Much like the antagonists of the same species in the Jaws franchise, however, the Sharks refused to go down until the very end. Brett Burns’s goal just before the halfway mark kicked off an insane final 11 minutes of hockey, narrowing the lead to 3-2. The Rangers widened the gap once more with 8 minutes to go, scoring a pair of goals in 21 seconds. Kevin Hayes put in his first of the season via assists from JT Miller and Jesper Fast, while Vesey, the highly touted Harvard alum, scored what the Rangers hope is the first of many NHL goals via suave passing from Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. The puck, of course, was later preserved.
The goals turned out to very well define the term “insurance goal” as the Sharks refused to let a 5-2 deficit spell doom for, adding a couple of more goals by Burns and Joe Pavelski over the span of 1:34. However, the Rangers (2-1-0) capitalized when the
Sharks pulled Jones, as Zuccarello put one in the second he was called to the bench. Michael Grabner then put one more empty netter in to cap the scoring, and send the MSG crowd home happy with a 7-4 victory.
On the night, four Rangers finished with multiple points with Zuccarello’s trio (1 goal, 2 assists) leading the way, with Kreider (1 goal, 1 assist), McDonagh and Stepan (2 assists each) nabbing their first couple of points on the young season. Antti Raanta made 27 saves in his first start of the season and tallied his first point as a Ranger with an assist on Kreider’s goal. For San Jose (2-1-0), Pavelski contributed on all scoring (1 goal, 3 assists), while Burns had 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) while putting up a game-high 7 shots on net.
The Rangers and Sharks will meet again on March 28 in San Jose.
Following the win, the Rangers will stay at MSG to take part in the Wednesday Night Rivalry series, with fellow Original 6 team Detroit coming to town (8 PM, NBCSN).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.