For more than two periods, the Rangers had little going on in the final game of a four game road trip at Ottawa. After Josh Norris beat Alex Georgiev from way out 64 seconds into the third to put the Senators ahead by two, it looked like it would be another sleepless matinee loss at Canadian Tire Center.
However, Chris Kreider and a resilient bunch of Blueshirts had other ideas. It was Kreider’s power play goal with 5:23 remaining that sparked a stirring 3-2 comeback win over the Senators in Kanata, Ontario this afternoon. Not only did they get off the deck to rally from two down by scoring three straight times within a 3:20 time period. But they made history. As hard as it is to believe, it’s the first time in franchise history the Rangers have ever won a game in which they faced a multi-goal deficit with six minutes left in regulation.
If you want to be successful during a season, sometimes you have to find a way to win tough games you have no business winning. This isn’t to suggest the Senators are a good team yet. But they aren’t exactly a pushover anymore. With Brady Tkachuk back after finally signing a big extension, Ottawa is a team with some good young talent like Tim Stutzle, Norris, Shane Pinto (missed game due to injury), Thomas Chabot [Shalom], Drake Batherson and Artem Zub that should continue to improve. So, I wasn’t surprised it was a nail biter. Especially with it being the fourth and final game of a great road trip. By show of hands, who had the Rangers winning all four? This was the one I thought they’d lose.
For some reason, playing Ottawa on the weekend with an early start time usually means curtains for the Rangers. It’s like a scene in Halloween where you already know the character is getting killed off by Michael Myers. I’m glad they found their game just in time to steal two points. Even if the comeback was helped by an embellishment call on Stutzle that resulted in a four-on-four goal from unlikely source Ryan Lindgren to shockingly tie it 75 seconds following Kreider’s team-leading fourth (third on power play). It also didn’t hurt that an injury to Ottawa starting goalie Matt Murray forced backup Anton Forsberg into the game without any chance to warm up. There still wasn’t much he could do about the two goals that beat him on three shots. They were good deflections from Lindgren and Barclay Goodrow, who made it two consecutive games with a goal.
As if to prove that point, it took the Senators only 41 seconds to score the game’s first goal on Georgiev. Making his first start in 10 days, he looked rusty early. On a rare play at five-on-five where a pinching Adam Fox got caught, Stutzle started a quick transition up the ice. Taking a Connor Brown feed, he blew into the Rangers zone and made a perfect pass for Nick Paul, who beat Georgiev from the circle with a high rising shot past his glove for a 1-0 Ottawa lead. It definitely irked me. I’m already down on Georgiev, who isn’t consistent behind Igor Shesterkin. I figured that goal was gonna be the start of a long day.
Give Georgiev credit for settling in. His teammates didn’t have a good first period. After Ryan Reaves drew a tripping call on Norris, the power play continued to be an eyesore. The first unit did nothing. It was the second unit that encouraged me. In particular, Jacob Trouba who I’m not a big fan of having on one point with rookie Nils Lundkvist. He was good in this one. He even made a nice spin-o-rama and got his shot through to force a save from a sharp Murray, who was making his second consecutive start. I felt like the second unit worked hard to generate chances. Even though they didn’t connect, it was an improvement.
At even strength, I liked the new second line in the opening 20 minutes. Even though neither Filip Chytil or Alexis Lafreniere did much in the game, it seems like they have good chemistry with meat grinder Sammy Blais. Blais continues to impress with his strong work ethic. He’s making more fans as I predicted. Pavel who? Relax. I’m kidding. Blais won’t put up the offensive numbers Pavel Buchnevich will with the Blues. But he doesn’t have to. He brings a very hard-working honest approach that rubs off on teammates. If someone deserves a goal soon, it’s him. He’s still off to a good start with three assists in five games. The three have come over the last two. But it’s more than that with the 25-year old Swede, who’s very active during shifts and makes things happen. That includes heavy hits and even the occasional scrap which we saw earlier.
Blais wasn’t the only one to get into it. After a good clean check from Trouba, Tkachuk didn’t like it and challenged the veteran defenseman. Trouba obliged. Even though the very tough Tkachuk got the takedown, Trouba did okay. He took the Senators’ best player off the ice for five minutes. They could’ve used him moments later with Kreider off for holding Stutzle. The Rangers got the job done on the penalty kill. Tkachuk returned for Ottawa’s second power play of the period. But the penalty kill gave them very little all game to go 4-for-4, only allowing two power play shots on Georgiev. Give credit to the work players such as Goodrow (3:09) and Patrik Nemeth (2:58) did. Both are fitting in well.
Just to follow up on Georgiev, I thought he did a good job the rest of the period after the stoppable goal to Paul. He made some key saves to keep the Senators from extending their lead. They outshot the Rangers 10-8. When the period concluded, I felt relieved. It didn’t feel like a one goal deficit.
In fact, Georgiev kept his team in the second period. Ottawa held a 10-4 edge in shots during it. However, they were unable to beat Georgiev and take advantage. For the game, he finished with 26 saves on 28 shots to even earn the game’s Third Star. It’s never easy for a backup goalie to play after going over a week without a game. So, that shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s not going to get as many starts with coach Gerard Gallant making it clear that Shesterkin is the man. Figure him to be back in for Calgary on Monday. The Rangers will finally be home.
One of the things that hurt past Rangers teams that missed the playoffs were our goalies giving up goals early or late in periods. In today’s case, it happened twice to Georgiev. On a seemingly nothing play, Norris gained the blue line and fired a wrist shot from distance. Sure enough, it snuck by Georgiev, who should’ve had it. This one came 64 seconds into the third period to give the Senators a 2-0 lead. The goal was unassisted. At that point, I feared the worst. Fortunately, the Rangers never quit.
If there’s one thing we know from recent teams, this is exactly the kind of game they never win. It would’ve been easy for them to say, ‘It’s not our day. We can still take satisfaction going 3-1 on the road trip.’ Not this team. They weren’t satisfied.
Able to pick up their play, the Rangers got more pressure on Ottawa. The only trouble was Murray wasn’t cooperating. He made some good stops to keep his team ahead by two. It looked like the last ditch effort wouldn’t get rewarded. But in a determined final period where Blais fought Paul to take him off the ice with less than 10 minutes left, the Blueshirts didn’t go quietly.
Following a Parker Kelly hook on K’Andre Miller, who had a second straight better game that included six blocked shots, this time the power play made it work. On just a superb play started by Mika Zibanejad, he got the puck to Artemi Panarin. It was his turnover that resulted in the Norris tally earlier in the period. This time, he made up for it by making a perfect shot pass for an open Kreider in front. He was able to tip in his team-leading fourth and third power play goal to cut the deficit in half with still 5:23 to go.
On the Kreider goal, Murray was injured. The above replay might indicate that it was a lower-body injury that caused him to exit the game. That meant Forsberg had to come in cold to try to preserve the Ottawa one goal lead. Like I said earlier, it wasn’t his fault. It was the Rangers’ gritty effort that stole this game. One they could look back on if things continue to go well.
Then came a critical moment that helped the comeback. With the shifty Stutzle skating by in the neutral zone, Trouba took him down with an obvious trip. However, the officials decided that Stutzle helped sell the call. That resulted in him getting a coordinating two for embellishment. Of course, the 11,167 fans in attendance voiced their displeasure. You be the judge.
I guess it depends on your perspective. Whatever you feel, instead of the Senators having a 5-on-4 power play with 4:38 left, the teams played 4-on-4. That made a huge difference. Right away off a face-off, the Blueshirts scored when Fox made another great play. After taking a Kreider feed, he found open space down the right side and sent a great pass towards the net that partner Ryan Lindgren redirected past Forsberg to suddenly tie the score with 4:08 remaining. What made it so shocking is it was Lindgren in front. The defensive defenseman had enough sense to go to the dirty area and get his first of the season from Fox and Kreider. The game-tying goal came seven seconds into the 4-on-4.
Ottawa never recovered. You never know how a young team is going to respond to blowing a game they had won. It was the more experienced Rangers who took it away. With just over two minutes left in regulation, Goodrow was able to get his stick on a long Blais shot for the game-winner. Trouba helped set it up. It gave Goodrow goals in two games in a row. He sealed the win over Nashville on Thursday with an empty netter. This was pure determination with him able to neatly deflect home the Blais shot with 2:03 remaining.
The Rangers were able to protect the lead for the remainder of regulation to earn their fourth successive win on the road. Just call them the Road Warriors. Cue Hawk and Animal with manager Precious Paul Ellering. He’s the only one still around. Both Hawk and Animal live on in spirit for wrestling fans like myself and my brother Justin, who celebrates his birthday. Happy Birthday 🎂🥳🎉!!!!! I bet he’ll love the wrestling reference. He’s the biggest Road Warriors fan I know. I still think they were the best tag team even if I was preferential to the Midnight Express.
Right now, the moniker Road Warriors fits the Rangers. They just finished a perfect road trip going 4-for-4 by defeating the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Predators and Senators. That’s quite a statement after going 0-1-1 in the first two games. They’re now up to a Metro Division best 4-1-1 with nine points. Don’t forget the Hurricanes are looking to stay undefeated while the Capitals picked up their eighth point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Flames, who visit MSG Monday. Getting off to a good start is important. They’ve found ways to win without two top six forwards. Maybe Kaapo Kakko and Ryan Strome will be ready in two nights.
With both Panarin and Zibanejad still each with only one goal, the roster balance that Gallant and Team President and GM Chris Drury has come through. When they can get solid contributions from a supporting cast that at the moment includes Greg McKegg, Dryden Hunt and Morgan Barron, you have to feel good. Blais and Goodrow are getting it done so far. So is Nemeth, who very quietly goes about his business playing third pair with Nils Lundkvist and killing penalties. There’s a lot to like. They have character.
The Rangers host the Flames on Monday and then get a needed three day break before the Blue Jackets visit The Garden on Friday. Then, it’s back on the road including the first ever meeting against the expansion Kraken on Halloween. What a way to close October. It doesn’t get any easier with games in Vancouver and Edmonton before concluding a four game Western swing at Calgary.
BATTLE OF HUDSON 3 STARS 🌟
3rd 🌟 Jacob Trouba, NYR (🍎 + fight, plus-1 in 19:39, 3 SOG in 7 attempts)
2nd 🌟 Barclay Goodrow, NYR (GWG 2nd straight game with a goal, plus-1 in 16:40)
1st 🌟 Chris Kreider, NYR (PPG + 🍎, 6 hits, 5 SOG in 8 attempts, plus-1 in 20:22)