Miller highlights win with first career three point game, Rangers hang on for key victory over Canucks, Kreider ties Messier for seventh on all-time franchise goal scoring list, Chytil Mania continues

It didn’t come easy. Do they ever for this team? After Monday’s exciting win over Calgary, the Rangers did just enough to earn a 4-3 win over the Canucks at The Garden.

The most important thing is they got two points. That pulls them within four of the second place Devils. Dating back to a 4-1 victory over Vegas nearly two weeks ago, the Rangers have won three straight. They’re up to 66 points in 51 games. It was their 23rd regulation win. The Devils have 70 points in 50 games with 24 regulation wins. That’s the first tiebreaker.

There’s still over 30 games left on the schedule. It isn’t guaranteed that the Rangers will cross paths with their bitter Hudson rival. However, it feels like it’s headed that way. If it happens, it would be nice to have home ice. We’ll see where things go.

The three-game home stand concludes tomorrow night when the surprising Kraken visits MSG. They will first face the Devils later tonight. Seattle is second in the Pacific Division. They’re in competition to make the playoffs in their second year. That will be an interesting battle. The Golden Knights, Kraken, Oilers, and Kings are all jockeying for position with the Flames lurking.

Whils that should be good race to follow, the Rangers have their own in a competitive Metro Division. The Hurricanes lead it with 76 points. Then, the Devils trail by six, followed by the Blueshirts, who are 10 behind. The Capitals currently sit in fourth place with 60 points. One up on the Penguins and Islanders, who are 2-0 since acquiring Bo Horvat from Vancouver. Pittsburgh has played only 50 games. The Caps have played 53, and the Islanders have played 54.

Whoever winds up fourth and fifth will have to contend with both the Sabres and suddenly resurgent Panthers. Each has 56 points. They should be in wildcard contention.

With 31 games remaining, the Rangers should feel good about where they are in the standings. They improved to 29-14-8. Although it wasn’t perfect, they took care of business. That’s all that matters.

Not every win is going to be easy. This one was ugly. The opposite of the barn burner, they won 5-4 in extras over the Flames the other night. It didn’t have an Alexis Lafreniere overtime winner or Filip Chytil hearing chants from the crowd.

Instead, it was rather boring or snoring, depending on your mood. The teams combined for a total of 46 shots. The Canucks held a 25-21 edge. Astonishingly, shots were dead even at 11 halfway through. This was the definition of a clunker. Sometimes, it happens. They play 82 games. There was just an extended break.

Early in the game, Chris Kreider moved into a tie with Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time franchise goal scoring list. He scored career goal number 250 less than seven minutes into play when he tipped in a Vincent Trocheck feed off a well executed play in transition, started by the game’s First Star K’Andre Miller.

On Black History Night, as we celebrate it during February, Miller picked a good game to post a career high three points. He recorded three assists highlighting the victory. He also helped set up the Rangers’ second and third goals.

The game started off well enough. With Igor Shesterkin returning to the net, the Rangers drew an early power play. During it, they got three scoring chances. Vancouver starter Spencer Martin stopped a Kreider tip-in. He also had a little help when a Mika Zibanejad rocket went off the crossbar. Zibanejad would then have another shot denied.

Following a Shesterkin save on a long Conor Garland shot, Miller quickly moved the puck up for Trocheck at center ice. With the Canucks caught, it became a two-on-one. Trocheck found a driving Kreider at the doorstep for his 21st at 6:53.

The goal was number 250 for Kreider. He tied Mark Messier for seventh on the all-time franchise goal scoring list. Once he moves past Messier, Camille Henry is next in line with 256. Kreider should be able to pass him to move into the top six.

Before Vancouver really found their game, a familiar face stayed red hot. Filip Chytil upped his goal scoring streak to five when he patiently backhanded a shot past a helpless Martin to make it 2-0 at 8:31.

Miller pinched in and sent the puck down low for Kaapo Kakko. He was able to elude a check and center a pass in front that Chytil deposited for his 19th. He’s up to seven over the last five games. His 11 since the start of the calendar year rank third in the league. It’s been exciting to see. It’s Chytil who has become the focal point of the offense. A welcome change.

Following that goal, Trocheck took one of his Strome specials, hooking J.T. Miller in the offensive zone. Of course, I’m referring to former Ranger Ryan Strome. He had a penchant for those. I don’t know if it’s the number. But Trocheck also wears number 16. He did the same thing in Carolina.

Fortunately, the penalty kill was strong. They didn’t give up a single shot. The Canucks are now coached by Rick Tocchet. He replaced the popular Bruce Boudreau, who’s set to return to NHL Network. Good for him. Tocchet is already learning how tough it is to coach a team that doesn’t always defend well or make the right play.

However, they still possess offensive talent. Even following the unpopular trade of former captain Bo Horvat to the Islanders, they still boast some potent weapons. One is Quinn Hughes. The older brother of Devils star Jack Hughes is a smooth skating offensive defenseman who can move the puck with the best of them. A tremendous distributor, it was his rush that led to the first Canucks goal.

Following some initial pressure by the fourth line of Sammy Blais, Jake Leschyshyn, and Will Cuylle, Hughes rushed the puck the other way. Easily gaining the Rangers blue line, he drew the attention of four skaters, including Cuylle and Braden Schneider. This allowed him to find Garland wide open for a goal with 2:24 left that pulled them within one.

Perhaps that sequence, along with an ineffective game from the fourth line and third defensive pair, convinced Chris Drury to act quickly. They sure did earlier this afternoon. Let’s leave that for a separate post.

Still ahead 2-1 in the second period, it felt like the Rangers got lulled to sleep by the Canucks. They’re the direct opposite of the Flames. A team that is searching for an identity, playing out the string. The Connor Bedard lottery awaits. They’re not favorites to get him. You never know.

Shesterkin stayed awake with early stops on Vasily Podkolzin and Luke Schenn. He’d also deny a Curtis Lazar wrap-around. Not much was happening. It really was sleep inducing. Sloppy hockey. It felt like the Blueshirts played down to the level of their opponent.

Still leading by one, they got a spark from the resurgent Alexis Lafreniere when he was able to deflect a rebound home a Trouba shot for his eighth at 6:23. That gave him goals in two straight and six points over the last six. On the scoring play, Miller recorded his third point for his first three assist game. He’d never had a three-point game either.

The Rangers had a few chances to go up three. But both Trocheck and Jimmy Vesey missed wide on opportunities. Artemi Panarin also had a mini-break when he got behind the Vancouver defense. However, he sent a backhand high and wide.

For a while, nothing substantial was happening. But the longer it remained a two-goal game, the longer the Canucks could hang around. One thing about them, which Tocchet noted in his postgame. They never give up.

With that in mind, J.T. Miller made an aggressive forecheck to force a turnover behind the Rangers net. He then centered a pass for Podkolzin in the right circle. His shot took a Canucks’ bounce off of Panarin and by Shesterkin to cut it to 3-2 with 3:54 remaining. It was an unlucky goal. However, neither Ryan Lindgren nor Adam Fox were particularly strong on the goal.

Of course, Sam Rosen started going on and on about Miller because that was his 500th career point. Kudos to him. But hearing both Rosen and Joe Micheletti waxing poetic about a former player was nauseating. They really are insufferable.

Fortunately, Panarin got a step on Schenn in the neutral zone to draw an interference minor late in the period. Following the stoppage, Schenn went to the locker room due to being banged up on the penalty. A potential trade target, Tocchet said he was okay afterwards.

The Rangers were unable to cash in on the power play. There was only one shot from Trocheck that was handled by Martin. The five-on-four was an ugly way to conclude a disjointed period.

The third wasn’t any better. Following some key saves by Martin on Kreider and Trocheck, who played a much better game than Monday, the Canucks came awfully close to tying it. However, they couldn’t shoot straight. Brock Boeser missed on two attempts, and former Islander Anthony Beauvillier went wide from in front. That’s why he’s now a Canuck.

There were some sloppy turnovers by the Rangers defense. Schneider and partner Ben Harpur struggled. Their ice time was down. Harpur played 11:45 while Schneider received 14:47 with each victimized on the Canucks’ first goal.

Unhappy with the fourth line, Gallant had Trocheck take a shift in place of Leschyshyn. Blais was the only forward who took his shift with Trocheck and Goodrow on a make shift line. However, Kreider had limped off. He was fine.

Miller nearly had a fourth assist when he made a great diagonal pass across for a wide open Kakko. But he shanked it. All he had to do was fire it into the open side. That missed opportunity could’ve been costly. Kakko remains better at distributing the puck than finishing.

With the game still hanging in the balance, it was finally a strong shift for the first line that proved to be the difference. On a smart play by Vesey, who dumped the puck down, Panarin came out and moved it over for a Trouba shot that Zibanejad was able to redirect in with 3:55 remaining. It was his 25th of the season. Vesey was also in the vicinity.

But before they could relax, a missed icing by the linesmen allowed the Canucks to get it right back. Hughes sent the puck in behind the Rangers net. He didn’t gain the red line. For whatever reason, play continued. Unless they really believed a hustling Elias Pettersson beat both Miller and Trouba, it didn’t make sense.

Admittedly, Miller noted that they thought it was icing during a postgame interview in the room. That was out of their control. Instead, Pettersson retrieved the loose puck and caught Shesterkin napping to get his 22nd with 3:44 remaining. His goal came only 11 seconds after Zibanejad’s.

It seems like there’s been a lot of bizarre calls or misses this season. This one was right up there. Gerard Gallant was further incensed when Chytil appeared to have a step on Boeser with the Canucks’ vacated net staring at him. But instead of rewarding him with his 20th goal, they called Boeser for tripping with 39 seconds left.

In all honesty, it should’ve been a goal for Chytil. Gallant then gave it to the official who didn’t make the call. According to Dave Maloney, he pleaded innocent. Basically insinuating he had nothing to do with the incorrect call. It happens.

At least they were able to kill the remainder of the game for the win. It still isn’t good when such misses happen. The league needs to get this stuff straightened out before the playoffs.

Nobody wants to see a team get screwed by a bad call. Why do I get the feeling that the incompetence will continue? This is the same league that doesn’t hold teams responsible for circumventing the cap due to LTIR. They also never impose stricter rules on teams informing the media of injuries to key stars.

Jack Hughes was first termed “day-to-day” by the Devils following their overtime win over Vancouver. Then, it suddenly became “week-to-week.” How is that good for fans of the sport? Especially when they push gambling at every turn. Where’s the honesty?

It is a disgrace. Between the non-stop in-game advertisements from Gretzky, Lundqvist, and a variety of other former stars, it’s so dishonest. There should be better communication between teams, the media, and fans. Vague answers like “upper-body” and “lower-body” aren’t helping the cause.

That’ll do it for this game review. I apologize for not having it up sooner. I’ve been really struggling lately. The less said about it, the better.

It isn’t often I agree with the media selection of the game’s Three Stars. But, they got it right. Good job by them.

3rd 🌟 Quinn Hughes, Canucks 2 🍎, 2 takeaways, +2 in 21:14

2nd 🌟 🤩 Jacob Trouba, Rangers 2 🍎, 5 attempts, 3 hits, +3 in 21:12

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ K’Andre Miller, Rangers 3 assists for his first career three-point game, 4 hits, +3 in 23:10

Coming Next: The news of the day that surprised me while I was trying to rest. The Rangers improved their roster. I’ll go over it the best I can.


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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