A Foxy Finish! Fox’s goal in overtime gives Rangers home win over Ducks, Panarin sets up winner, three helpers, Kreider ties it with NHL best 20th power play goal

It was a Foxy kinda night at 33rd and 7th. Adam Fox’s goal at 55 seconds of overtime gave the Rangers a 4-3 win on home ice. His 9th of the season was perfectly set up by Artemi Panarin, who continued his surge with three assists to give him eight points (1-7-8) in the last two games. Both wins.

On a night where they didn’t have their best game, it was mostly the brilliance of Panarin that helped carry the Blueshirts to a second consecutive victory. Coming off his third career five-point game, Panarin had it going against the Ducks at The Garden.

It was his line that controlled most of the action. Along with sidekick Ryan Strome and the gritty Dryden Hunt, the Panarin line dictated for long stretches in the Ducks’ zone. Their defense struggled against the Rangers’ second scoring unit.

This was more like how Panarin played in his first season in NYC. A welcome sight for the Garden Faithful. He not only setup goals, but was more aggressive shooting the puck. The Bread Man had four shots on net and seven attempts. That’s the mindset the Rangers need from their leading scorer. By putting up eight points over two games, he’s up to 71 (16-55-71) for the season. A good sign.

Fox had a second straight good game. He’d slumped recently. But in this one, the ’21 Norris winner was everywhere throughout. A more active approach led to him having his best game in nearly two months. Not only did he pass the puck well, but looked for his shot. For the game, he had a team high six shots in eight attempts.

The end result was a three-point effort by the Rangers’ leading star defenseman. That included helping set up Chris Kreider’s league-leading 20th power play goal to tie the score with 6:20 remaining in regulation. It also saw him finish off a great pass from Panarin by beating losing Ducks’ goalie John Gibson with a wrist shot in close for the overtime winner.

When the stars play well, this team has a much better chance of being successful. Mika Zibanejad also scored his 24th goal and added his 37th helper on the game-tying Kreider goal following a smart timeout by coach Gerard Gallant. He rested his top unit to keep them fresh. They delivered with Fox sending a shot wide that took a Ranger carom for a Kreider backhand that gave him his 39th to tie the contest at three.

They also got a nice contribution from the third line. Earlier in the game, a Filip Chytil clear out of his end allowed Jonny Brodzinski to score his first goal as a Ranger 4:29 into the contest. Chytil has played better recently. It was nice to see the hard-working Brodzinski get rewarded. Even if his shot from range was a bad one for the slumping Gibson to allow.

Since appearing in the All-Star Game following a good first half, Gibson has hit hard times. He entered play having allowed at least three goals or more in every start since Jan. 31. He wasn’t as bad tonight. But the final statistics were four goals allowed on 38 shots to extend his miserable run to 11. Yikes.

The first period was a bit strange. There weren’t a whole lot of shots or what I’d call high quality scoring chances. However, it was the Blueshirts who drew first blood.

On a good defensive by Braden Schneider, he got the puck up to Chytil along the boards. He was able to move it up for Brodzinski who simply gained the Anaheim zone and fired a wrist shot from the right circle that eluded Gibson. It was his eighth career NHL goal. The first in 11 games this season. He scored one last year in a five game cameo.

Despite getting off to the good start, the Rangers couldn’t or wouldn’t fire more shots on a fragile goalie. That allowed Gibson to eventually get into a rhythm. Something that’s been uncommon for the 28-year old American.

The only line that created consistent chances was the Panarin unit. Able to gain the zone, forecheck and win loose pucks, they had the Ducks pinned in often. It just didn’t lead to much early. Interestingly, the third line that featured Brodzinski also cycled effectively. Brodzinski was credited with three of the team’s seven shots in the first period.

With the Rangers still up by one, a Ducks’ forecheck led to them getting the tying goal. Adam Henrique worked the puck to Troy Terry, who came out and centered a pass that banked in off Max Comtois with 5:55 remaining. The puck also appeared to bounce off K’Andre Miller simultaneously. A bad break.

With the game tied, a good Strome hit in the corner of the Ducks’ end resulted in Sam Carrick taking a holding minor. On their first power play, the Blueshirts couldn’t do anything. Instead, the improved Ducks’ penalty kill were aggressive at clearing the zone. They were able to kill it off.

Late in the period, some Anaheim pressure led to Ryan Lindgren throwing the puck away for a delay of game minor with 14 seconds left. Despite what both Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti said, he had enough time. It was an unforced error.

The Ducks remained on the five-on-four into the second period. Even though they didn’t score, their power play created opportunities on Alex Georgiev, who got the start. Of course, some fans negatively reacted to him playing this game. But what are they supposed to do? Play Igor Shesterkin in every remaining game. That makes no sense.

Interesting to note that Georgiev entered the start 3-0 versus the Ducks in his career with only four goals allowed. You do the math. This was a calculated move to maybe get him one more show case just in case they move on. Given some of his postgame commentary following recent losses, it’s obvious this is it for him. Whether he goes at next week’s deadline or this summer, his time as a Blueshirt is coming to an end.

To be fair, Georgiev was okay. He’s also fared better at home than on the road during his career. It’s interesting that Gallant has used him more on the road where he hasn’t been as successful. Perhaps that’s due to the schedule and the monster season from Shesterkin.

With the game even entering the second period, the Rangers killed off the Lindgren penalty. That included a nice save from Georgiev. Following that successive kill, Alexis Lafreniere’s takeaway sent Zibanejad in with Kreider. His pass in front for Kreider was denied by Gibson.

Following that sequence, the Panarin line again dominated an offensive shift against the Ducks. In the period of the long change, that unit forechecked until Hunt drew a delayed call. But with the six skaters showing patience, eventually Panarin and Fox combined to set up Zibanejad for a one-timer from a tough angle that beat Gibson high short side for a 2-1 lead.

The six-on-five goal was well executed. They kept the puck possession the entire time against an exhausted Ducks five-man unit. Finally, Zibanejad picked up number 24 off a good Fox pass at 3:06.

But before they could feel good about themselves, Jacob Trouba took down Isac Lundestrom to go for tripping. The Ducks didn’t waste any time. With Henrique able to get the puck up top for Cam Fowler, the veteran defenseman let go of a point shot that Georgiev couldn’t pick up to tie the score at 4:53. Fox forgot about Comtois who screened Georgiev in front.

Tied at two, that’s how it remained during a pretty even period. It wasn’t as dull as the first. The teams combined for 21 shots. The Rangers held an 11-10 edge. Both goalies made key stops to keep it even headed to the third.

The Rangers were able to kill off one of those Strome penalties late. He also missed an open net on a one-timer off a Panarin feed. A regular occurrence. Both the bad penalties and easy misses are known as the Ryan Strome for a reason.

If he buried some of these opportunities, he would have over 20 goals by now. Nobody would be complaining. He is still a key player. It’s absurd that there’s a small contingent that want him traded. Come on. They need to add players. Not subtract.

For most of the third, it was mostly Rangers. They really had the Ducks on the ropes. To his credit, Gibson stopped the puck to give Anaheim a shot. His timely stops nearly helped them steal the game.

With the Rangers applying more pressure, Patrik Nemeth had a shot blocked. With him caught and all three forwards trapped, Danny O’Regan moved the puck up for Derek Grant in the neutral zone. Able to get a step on Schneider, the checking forward broke in and beat Georgiev by shooting over him to make it 3-2 Ducks with 9:25 left.

My only gripe with Georgiev on the goal is he didn’t challenge enough. He had Schneider skating back chasing Grant. Even though the rookie defenseman took the wrong angle, if Georgiev had been more aggressive, he could’ve come out and denied Grant. The indecisiveness cost him. Breakaways have been a bugaboo for him. It wasn’t all his fault.

With the Ducks leading for the first time, Fox was able to get a step on Comtois and draw a hooking minor. On the power play for the second time, they couldn’t get the shot they needed during the first half. That included a passive Kreider not shooting and forcing a pass into the middle that was sent down the ice.

Following a Gibson save, Gallant again used his timeout to keep his top unit fresh. He’s had success with it this season. After the breather, Zibanejad won an offensive draw back for a Panarin shot that Gibson gloved.

After controlling another face-off, they went to work. Off a Panarin set up of a Fox shot, the puck banked off the back boards right to Kreider, who did what he does best. He was able to put in a backhand for his NHL best 20th power play goal.

It also was his 39th goal and 54th point. The goal was career point number 400. The 54 points are a new career high. So, now Kreider has career bests with 39 goals and 54 points. Better than that, he’s clutch.

That goal allowed the Blueshirts to force overtime. It didn’t take long to decide a winner. A Zibanejad defensive play helped send Panarin in behind the Anaheim skaters. After he was caught, he was strong enough to get the puck over for Fox, who beat Gibson for the exciting game-winner at 55 seconds.

It wasn’t perfect. They don’t all have to be. Gallant didn’t sound particularly thrilled I the postgame. The scowl he gave following the Grant breakaway goal was as mad as I’ve seen him during a game. There was definitely steam coming out.

Part of that is by design. With the Islanders visiting town on Thursday, they’ll have to be sharper. The Isles have played better hockey lately. Even though they’re a playoff afterthought, they haven’t quit. Too much pride.

Anders Lee is hot coming in and Noah Dobson is having a breakout year. Ilya Sorokin has quietly put together a good first full year. He’s got six shutouts. You will likely get the Sorokin versus Shesterkin match-up at MSG.

For the Rangers, it’s a chance to play against their number one rival. It’s only the second meeting. They need to win. No excuses. Expect it to be tough. The Islanders are now spoilers.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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