It started the right way. Every Ranger wore the classic home white jerseys with the number 7 and the name Gilbert on the backs as they skated during warm-ups. Prior to last night’s game,the Rangers paid tribute to franchise legend Rod Gilbert, who passed away earlier this summer.
It was an emotional moment for Madison Square Garden. Following player introductions and the announcement of the new coaching staff that includes Gerard Gallant, they had a seven second moment of silence for No. 7. Then, Gilbert’s entire family came out to a great ovation from over 17,000 who attended the home opener. Wife Judy was brought out to drop the ceremonial first puck at center ice. Both Stars captain and Rangers alternate Mika Zibanejad posed for a picture and then shook her hand. She smiled which was nice to see. A video tribute was also shown of what made Gilbert so special to New York City hearts. It was wonderfully done.
Following the pregame ceremony that probably brought a lot of tears in the building as well as for those watching at home, there was still a game to play. In what can best be described as a better effort than the Wednesday’s clunker at Washington, the Rangers outplayed the Stars for two of three periods. However, a bad start put them in a two goal hole before Adam Fox took over the game to help rally the team along with Chris Kreider to a 2-2 tie. Despite probably deserving a better result, the Rangers lost in overtime 3-2 to the Stars on a Miro Heiskanen goal.
One of the surprises was that Sammy Blais didn’t play. He’s already nursing a lower-body injury from the Washington game. Shocker. He had a few ferocious hits. Hopefully, he isn’t out for Saturday at Montreal. With the Canadiens losing again, you know they’ll be amped up to play the home opener tomorrow night at Bell Centre. In other words, it won’t get any easier. Not with the Maple Leafs to follow on Monday.
The starting lineup included Dryden Hunt and Julien Gauthier, who didn’t play in the season opening dud that was a total waste. But Hunt did. It’s incredibly mystifying why he’s on the roster. Sure. He plays an honest game and is physically involved. But is that really who they chose over the exiled Vitali Kravtsov? Speaking of him, the father of the former ’18 first round pick put up an interesting Russian article. The English translation is a bit perplexing. This isn’t to suggest what Kravtsov decided to do is right. It’s not. But I think there’s more than meets the eye here.
Also making his true NHL debut was former first round pick Nils Lundkvist. He received over 14 minutes including some point duty on the second power play. As expected, he had a new number. Instead of number 53, he rocked number 27. Best remembered for former Stanley Cup champion Alexei Kovalev and recent captain Ryan McDonagh. Not for Jack Johnson, who astonishingly scored a highlight reel goal in a Colorado home win over Chicago that had me laughing. I thought Lundkvist looked confident for his first game. He created some scoring chances off the rush. There was one hiccup that cost a goal against. But that wasn’t entirely his fault.
Unlike Wednesday, Igor Shesterkin was in net for the second game of a back-to-back. He got a nice ovation from the crowd. Fans are excited for this team. We all want to see them succeed. There are more expectations. Obviously, they don’t want to get off to a slow start. At 0-1-1, they need to right the ship. As Kreider said afterwards during a postgame press conference sitting next to Fox, they only get a two game slate when asked about adjusting to the new system Gallant installed. He didn’t stutter. Kreider has done his part so far scoring in both games on tip ins. Exactly what you want from the longest tenured Blueshirt. Fox was unbelievable on Friday night, nearly willing the team back to a win. One of six alternates, the 23-year old Norris winner looks even better so far. With points in the first two games, there’s no telling what he’ll do. He sure is exciting to watch.
After an initial good start that earned them a power play, the Rangers found it difficult to score on veteran Braden Holtby. The former Caps goalie played very well before exiting due to dehydration. He made 25 saves before giving way to Anton Khudobin, who did a good job coming in cold to pickup the win by stopping all six shots he faced.