It wasn’t a game to remember for the Rangers, who were outclassed by the Avalanche 7-3 at MSG. On a night their seven-game winning streak was halted by an elite team, there was one positive.
Jacob Trouba continues to play much better hockey in his third season as a Broadway Blueshirt. A night removed from making headlines for his strong hit that sent Jujhar Khaira to the hospital during a road win at Chicago, he again caught a player with their head down.
In what was a near repeat, Trouba delivered a heavy hit that sent Colorado superstar Nathan MacKinnon down to the ice. On the play, Trouba tucked his elbow in and went shoulder to chest on MacKinnon, who was shaken up. As he went to the locker room for concussion protocol, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog immediately challenged Trouba, who again answered the bell.
It was an even bout between two big men. Landeskog stood up for MacKinnon, who fortunately was okay to return for the third period. Trouba was accountable for his actions.
As for the game, let’s just say it didn’t go well for the Rangers. After taking a 2-1 lead after one period to the locker room on a goal from Trouba and the first NHL goal for rookie Nils Lundkvist on the power play, they were taken apart by the more rested Avalanche in a forgettable second period.
Colorado responded by hitting them with an Avalanche by scoring five consecutive goals in a lopsided second. That included a highlight reel goal from MacKinnon in which he left K’Andre Miller in the dust. Nazem Kadri followed that up by redirecting a Cale Makar shot to give the Avalanche the lead for good.
After Alex Newhook converted on the power play with Ryan Reaves off to make it 4-2, Trouba caught a leaning MacKinnon flush sending him to the ice to cheers. That lead to the fight between him and Landeskog. By also recording a goal and assist in the first period along with the scrap, it put Trouba in rare company.
He recorded Gordie Howe hat tricks in consecutive games. It left many to ponder when’s the last time a player did that. No. Eric Lindros never did it. Neither did Mark Messier or Cam Neely. In fact, Trouba became only the second player to record Gordie Howe hat tricks on back-to-back days, joining Doug Risebrough in February 1975.
Unfortunately, it came in a blowout loss. A game in which most of the top players failed to show up. Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren had off nights along with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider. They went a combined minus-13 with one assist. Only Trouba was okay offensively finishing with a goal and helper. However, he also went minus-two meaning not one top Blueshirt was a plus.
Following the game, Trouba did speak to the media. Asked about Jujhar Chaira, he said he’d exchanged texts with the injured Blackhawks’ forward. He relayed that Khaira was doing okay.
Undoubtedly, nobody wants to see players hurt. Especially Trouba, who plays an honest game. He is the Rangers’ most physical defenseman. Hitting is part of his style. Despite the overreaction from some misguided fans who never played, neither hit was illegal. Maybe they should Google Scott Stevens and see what they find.
Hockey is a tough game. The last I checked, hitting is part of the game. It’s the player’s job to protect themselves. Unfortunately, neither Khaira or MacKinnon kept their heads up. It reminded me of Lindros when he got caught by Stevens in 2000.
While the game has changed for the better with concussion protocol part of hockey to make sure injured players can recover, it’s still a man’s game. Trouba has let everyone know he’s going to play the game hard. Everyone is on alert.