Miller’s goal with a second left and Fox’s overtime winner allows Rangers to steal two points from Oettinger, Stars, Gauthier exits again due to collision with Blais, late heroics provide miraculous win


Time was winding down. The desperate Blueshirts were running out of time. In search of the equalizer against the superb Jake Oettinger, who should be up for the Vezina, seconds kept ticking away.

It looked like despite giving it all they had with Gerard Gallant’s six skaters that included Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Vincent Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Kaapo Kakko were going to fall short. However, their relentless play until the final buzzer paid off when Miller had a shot blocked by a diving Luke Glendening come right back to him. It gave him just enough time to fire a second shot by Oettinger that beat the final horn.

Mobbed by excited teammates including a leaping Panarin, Miller’s miraculous tying goal came with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. With the building still buzzing after that remarkable goal from a cool player who never seems to let anything bother him, it was then a defensive play by Zibanejad that led to Panarin dashing in on an early overtime shift.

Just when it looked like the Stars would escape, Zibanejad stripped the puck and used his hustle to force Oettinger into a difficult save. With Miro Heiskanen losing his stick during a mad scramble, the loose puck came right to Adam Fox, who waited for Heiskanen to go down and go to a backhand to beat a faked out Oettinger for an unbelievable 2-1 win in overtime.

The Rangers stole two points. This was grand theft at 33rd and 7th at MSG. How they did it will be talked about tomorrow by the NHL and good media like Jackie Redmond on NHL Now with E.J. Hradek, who attended the game and witnessed something great. That’s a good watch on NHL Network. Especially to hear Redmond’s fresh takes on what’s caught her eye. Her Top Five during the week is excellent.

For sure, the game played between the Rangers and Stars will be at the top of that list. Why not? It was a hard fought game that featured a pair of great goalies making big saves. It had tight checking. If you saw the first period, there literally was no room. Both teams checked diligently and limited shots and quality scoring chances.

Entering the game, the Rangers were without key finisher and power forward Chris Kreider. The encouraging news is it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out too long. They had to skate without the 19-goal scorer who adds so much net front presence and plenty on the power play. They definitely missed him on special teams.

The Rangers took the collar in four power play chances while they allowed the Stars to convert on their only man-advantage. That was frustrating. Especially when you consider that they got the game’s first three. Nobody could figure out how to solve Oettinger, who was stopping everything. Just ask Zibanejad. His patented one-timer didn’t get past the Stars netminder.

The Stars also played a second straight game without top center Roope Hintz. A player who deserves to be voted into the NHL All-Star Game. Not that I particularly care. I agree with John Tortorella on the current state of the game. That’s my only commentary. However, by all means get those Adam Fox tweets in with the hashtag #NHLAllStarVote. He deserves it along with every accolade he receives.

When you think about it, both teams played without a key star. No pun intended. Two top line players who make a difference. Kreider who adds so much with his straightforward approach while teaming up with close buddy Zibanejad to form a dynamic duo. Hintz, who anchors that lethal Stars first line that features young star Jason Robertson with savvy vet Joe Pavelski. It’s quite a trio.

Instead, Gallant moved the struggling Alexis Lafreniere up with Zibanejad and Kakko. For a player who hasn’t scored in a while, he made a good first impression in a more significant role. He also was featured in Kreider’s spot on the top power play. Although he didn’t hit the score sheet, it was one of his best games all season.

Lafreniere finished with three shots on six attempts. He did a good job working hard in front to provide screens and look for tips. He also welcomed Nils Lundkvist back to MSG with a clean hit against the boards during an early shift that was a crowd pleaser. That’s how he has to play. With energy. Hopefully, last night’s game can be a starting point for Lafreniere to build on.

While Gallant adjusted his lineup minus Kreider by reinserting Sammy Blais to play on the checking line with Jonny Brodzinski and the poor Julien Gauthier (talk about unlucky), Trocheck centered Panarin and Vitaly Kravtsov on the second line. Filip Chytil was between Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey. The defense was the same with Ben Harpur celebrating his 28th birthday alongside Braden Schneider on the third pair.

Without Hintz, the Stars had Tyler Seguin fill in on the first line with Robertson and Pavelski. In a nice move, coach Peter DeBoer started Lundkvist for the opening face-off with veteran Ryan Suter. It was his Garden return as a visitor after getting traded to Dallas before the season. He came in with four goals and eight assists for a dozen points. This was his 40th game as a Star.

The Stars like to play Seguin with captain Jamie Benn and former Panther Mason Marchment, who’s added the same secondary scoring and grit to Dallas that he did with Florida. They definitely miss him. But he got paid. He fits in well on the Stars.

If you love fascinating goalie match-ups, then this one was for you. It was the rating Vezina winner Shesterkin facing Oettinger. Two top five goalies who can make the clutch stops. Although it’s been an uneven season for Igor, he’s still had a good year.

Oettinger is a couple of years younger. At 24, the former Stars ’17 first round pick is in the middle of a superb ’22-23. He came in with 19 wins with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. He came within a second of his third shutout. Pretty unlucky the way it happened.

That’s the way the game is sometimes. You can be in perfect position to win and then have it taken away from you in the blink of an eye. It’s happened before in much bigger games. I saw one up close involving Brad Richards during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Capitals. He tied it with seconds to go. Marc Staal won it early in sudden death. The Rangers won that series in seven. The magic number against the Ovechkin Caps during a memorable era.

The second meeting between the Rangers and Stars pitted two good teams against each other. Both are playing well. It made for an interesting game. My question was how would our side fare against one of the league’s best. Dallas defends hard and can also open it up under DeBoer.

Playing without Hintz, they tried to clamp down and turn it into a battle for territory at five-on-five. If you were hoping for a track meet, then you picked the wrong time to watch. There was hardly any operating room. It was a defensive, tight checking opening period that lacked any pizazz.

Forget quality scoring chances. These teams had to scratch and claw to get actual shots through. At one point, the Rangers had a shot taken away. It was tied at four apiece and all even on the scoreboard full of zeroes. Yeah. It wasn’t a Picasso or Renoir. Van Gogh probably would’ve enjoyed it. He cut off an ear out of broken love.

Prior to the game, the Stars tweeted out something funny. It showed Nils Lundkvist getting ready with a few teammates talking about the Lundqvist banner that hangs. This was good stuff.

If you liked strong defending, you got it early and often. Time and time again, each team came back hard and broke up plays. I counted at least three Panarin passes across the ice that became turnovers. That’s how difficult it was to make plays.

The only real opportunity the Rangers got was a Jimmy Vesey high shot that went off the mask of Oettinger and out of play. All the play was at even strength. Shots slightly favored the Blueshirts 8-6.

In another unfortunate play for Gauthier late in the period, he didn’t see Sammy Blais coming. It resulted in a scary head on collision that sent both players to the ice. Both were cut.

While Blais was able to return after being stitched up, that ended Gauthier’s night. He took five shifts and played 3:32. Gauthier’s game ended with 1:20 left in the first. The second game in a row he had to exit early. Last one, he got double teamed by Ryan Reaves and Brandon Duhaime. If he is back Sunday versus Montreal, wow.

The best chance for the Stars came when Radem Faksa got open for a Robertson pass. But Shesterkin denied him to keep it scoreless. As the shift continued, it was some good work from the second line that allowed Panarin to get a step on Faksa, who took him down.

With Lafreniere up on the top unit, he was parked in front when Trocheck had his slot shot stopped by Oettinger. Lafreniere just missed a tip and did a good job working in front. Oettinger also made a save on a Goodrow shot that Kakko set up when the second unit was on late.

On that same man-advantage, the Stars had a shorthanded chance. But failed to get a shot on an aggressive Shesterkin who came out to take Benn’s pass away. So, that was a close call too.

A few minutes later, Marchment felt enough pressure to send an errant clear out of play for a delay of game minor. On their second straight power play, the Rangers again failed to cash in. Panarin had Lafreniere open in front, but waited too long. Then, Oettinger got across to stop the Zibanejad one-timer. He’d also make two good saves on long Jacob Trouba shots including one after the five-on-four expired.

It was the Jake Oettinger show. He would also make a strong denial on a Brodzinski pass for a tough Vesey shot to send it just wide. He was locked in. By that point, it was obvious it was going to take something special to beat him.

After taking a good pass from Zibanejad, Lafreniere put a move on Suter, who got his glove up and took a roughing minor to put the Rangers back on the power play. As he continued to work hard in front, Lafreniere had a good view of Oettinger again thwarting Zibanejad from his office. There also was a scary shot from Trocheck that caught Jani Hakanpaa right in the noggin. Trocheck quickly came over to check in him. He was okay. Yikes.

Back at full strength, Lundkvist nearly scored on his former team. He made a good pinch and was all set up. But his good low shot was turned aside by the quick pad of Shesterkin to just keep it out. An outstanding save. Although it was his counterpart who made the more difficult stops, Shesterkin was there when called upon. He made 24 saves. Oettinger finished with 29.

With the Stars applying the pressure on the forecheck, Seguin got into a battle with Ryan Lindgren in front. Eventually, Lindgren was called for roughing. It looked more like holding. I knew the Stars were getting the next one. It was the right call even though they got the penalty incorrect. If that actually makes sense.

Predictably, the Stars capitalized on their one power play. On a fluky play where Goodrow made a bad line change that hung Zibanejad out to dry, Denis Gurianov sent a pass over for Marchment that he tipped towards the open space where Seguin pounced and roofed one top shelf for the game’s first goal with 2:07 remaining in the second.

Entering the third period, the Rangers had their work cut out. As it moved fast, which was the case throughout due to how it was played, I never got a sense they would beat Oettinger. Everything was challenged. He made the saves. It felt like that one mistake would cost them valuable points.

In a shocking call after Oettinger had a shot go off his mask again, they blew the play dead with 10:48 left in the third. When Oettinger pulled his mask off which is what goalies are supposed to do when the puck strikes them in the mask to get a stoppage, they somehow called him for delay of game. It was ridiculous. They didn’t see it? Why even have two refs and two linesmen. They get so much wrong.

Even Joe Micheletti couldn’t believe it. “I’ve never seen that ever called,” he said to Sam Rosen during the telecast. You could feel the astonishment through the screen. It was a clear indictment on the four blind mice.

It didn’t matter. The power play failed miserably. It was uneventful. Micheletti was critical by this crucial point. They were gifted a fourth power play and did nothing with it. Brutal.

They then almost made a delay of game call. They had to conference to decide if it was. We don’t even know if they got that one right either. They really were bad in the third period.

As time was winding down in regulation, Gallant started to throw together random lines that defied logic. He’s coached this roster the opposite of last year. You don’t know what he’ll do. They were down a goal and he was panicking. I think Jeff summed it up best.

When you randomly have Brodzinski on in place of Kravtsov for a shift with Trocheck and Panarin, what’s the thought process? Why was Blais on for a late shift down 1-0? Some of the combos made little sense. At least he reunited Kakko and Lafreniere with Chytil for a shift. But all they could muster was a long Lafreniere shot that Oettinger gloved due to his defense.

Thankfully, following a timeout, Turk changed it up. He went with Fox and Miller at the points. Kakko was the extra skater with Trocheck, Zibanejad and Panarin. On what can best be described as a wild sequence where they tried everything possible to get pucks through, the puck finally came back to Miller. Here’s how it looked and sounded:

It was insane. Bedlam at The Garden. Miller became just the fourth player in Rangers history to score with a second left in regulation to force overtime. He joined Brian Leetch, Darren Turcotte and Doug Robinson. Pretty cool list.

Regarding that clutch tying goal, an emotional Miller spoke at length with Michelle Gingras about the importance of his close relationship with his family. Especially his Mom. He was in tears.

An unbelievable moment for a young player who’s getting better. He’s been on fire during this stretch that now has the Blueshirts tied with the Devils in points (55) for a share of second in the division.

The overtime was another crazy sequence. This was Zibanejad being one of the better two-way centers even though he rarely gets any credit for it. He kept going and that hard work and hustle led to this incredible finish by the game’s best defenseman.

Adam Fox is that guy. He’s the man for this team. I know Erik Karlsson is having a great year and good for him. Really. After all he’s been through. On a bad Sharks team. You have Josh Morrisey. Rasmus Dahlin. Charlie McAvoy. Cale Makar. Etc. But for my money, it’s Adam Fox who’s the best candidate for the Norris. We’ll see where things wind up.

THREE STARS 🌟 🤩 ✨️

3rd 🌟 Jake Oettinger, Stars 29 saves on 31 shots in brilliant performance

2nd 🌟 🤩 K’Andre Miller, Rangers scored game-tying goal (5) at 19:59, SOG in 6 attempts, +1 in 23:45

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ Adam Fox, Rangers scored overtime winner (9) at 1:16 plus 🍎, +2 in 28:38

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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