Tarasenko scores in successful Broadway debut, Rangers defeat Kraken for fourth consecutive win

If it was the first show on Broadway, it went well for Vladimir Tarasenko. Making his Rangers debut wearing his trademark number 91, the former Blue scored his first goal less than three minutes in to electrify the Garden crowd.

On a Kraken turnover in the neutral zone, Artemi Panarin stole the puck and then moved in and centered a perfect pass for close Russian friend Tarasenko who tipped it in for the perfect start to his Rangers career. The cheers were deafening when Joe Tolleson announced the goal.

It was a successful Broadway debut. Playing on the first line with Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, Tarasenko demonstrated early why the Rangers got him. He also nearly set up Zibanejad on a two-on-one. Had that connected, the roof might’ve blown off the building.

Most importantly, the Rangers won their fourth consecutive game. They defeated the Kraken 6-3. Kaapo Kakko and Vincent Trocheck each finished with a goal and assist to help the team keep pace in the Metro Division. They’re four behind the second place Devils, and trail first place Carolina by eight.

In fact, it’ll be a big divisional match-up on Saturday when they visit Carolina at 7 PM. The Rangers should feel better equipped to go up against the Hurricanes. If Gerard Gallant likes what he saw from his new lines, which all were effective, then the lineup could remain the same for a key back-to-back. The only question is, will Igor Shesterkin get the start. He made 26 saves on 29 shots to pick up the win.

For at least one night, Gallant decided to go more conventional. He re-inserted Vitaly Kravtsov into the lineup. He played on the third line with Trocheck and Chris Kreider, who also scored a goal to move past Mark Messier for sole possession of seventh place on the all-time franchise goal list with 251.

Newcomer Niko Mikkola replaced Ben Harpur to team up with Braden Schneider on the third pair. It wasn’t a good game for either. Schneider got beat on the Kraken’s first goal, and Mikkola took three minor penalties. The final one was a dubious delay of game. Replays confirmed the puck went into the bench. The linesmen apologized to a fuming Gallant after the Rangers killed the penalty.

If they hadn’t killed that minor along with a weak Adam Fox trip, things might’ve been interesting. Fortunately, the special teams got the job done. Ryan Lindgren scored into a vacated Seattle net for his first goal in 90 games, sealing the victory.

With Tarasenko replacing Jimmy Vesey on the top line, he moved all the way down to the fourth line. Barclay Goodrow shifted to centering Vesey and Julien Gauthier, who returned to the lineup.

The second line remained intact. At least, that’s how I view Filip Chytil between Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. The chemistry is undeniable for the Rangers’ most effective offensive line that consistently gets in on the forecheck and makes things happen. They again were dynamite by combining for a nice Kakko goal that ended a 16-game drought.

Over two minutes after Tarasenko’s goal, Lafreniere made a nice pass into the slot for a Chytil shot that deflected right off the stick of Kakko for his 10th to make it 2-0.

Much later, Lafreniere nearly had Chytil for a goal on a two-on-one. He’s playing with a lot more confidence. He also created a breakaway that led to a weak hooking call on Jared McCann during the third period. The officiating left a lot to be desired.

While the Rangers took early control on the scoreboard, the Kraken worked diligently to generate chances. However, Shesterkin was sharp, making 10 saves in the first period. That included a pad stop on Jamie Oleksiak.

Daniel Sprong also had a close call. His sharp angle shot banked off the back of the mask of Shesterkin and right off the crossbar. He was very close to getting a big goal.

Instead, it was the Rangers’ third line that went to work. On a good Lindgren shot that rebounded to Trocheck, Kreider got the puck in front for a cutting Trocheck, whose shot bounced off Martin Jones. With it close to the goal line, a hustling Trocheck made sure to follow it up for his 15th goal to give the Blueshirts a 3-0 lead. Kravtsov took up space on the other side as Trocheck notched his second over the last four.

With under a minute left, Jaden Schwartz checked Lindgren up high in the corner. He was assessed an illegal check to the head minor. Lindgren was okay and stayed in the game.

After not scoring before the first concluded, the Rangers were able to convert on their first power play on a new sheet of ice. It was the second unit that got it done. Tarasenko is part of it, along with Trocheck. However, with time growing short, Gallant went with two defensemen. That featured K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba.

Kakko had a shot redirected by Trocheck. The puck came to Trouba, who fired a backhand that banked in for a power play goal at 1:03. His reaction was one of total disbelief. Puck luck for the gritty captain. Trouba’s fourth from Trocheck and Kakko gave them a 4-0 lead 63 seconds into the second period.

Before they got comfortable, Eeli Tolvanen sprung Oliver Bjorkstrand for a break-in. He cut between Trouba and Schneider and then beat Shesterkin high glove for his 10th at 2:07. That goal answered Trouba only 1:04 later.

Although there was no more scoring in a more hotly contested second, the pesky Kraken used their forecheck to buzz around Shesterkin’s net. He came up with a critical save on Ryan Donato that stayed out with both Mikkola and Schneider scrambling. Thankfully, no Seattle player found the rebound.

Midway through, Panarin didn’t like a hit Tarasenko took. He then went after Will Borgen, who was involved with Zibanejad along the boards. Panarin took an ill-advised interference minor to put the Kraken on the power play. Fortunately, the penalty kill bailed the undisciplined Panarin out. It would’ve been interesting to see how Gallant might’ve reacted had Seattle scored.

They would also have to kill off the first of three Mikkola minor penalties when he high-sticked Sprong. The Kraken weren’t too effective on the five-on-four. It was mostly strong work shorthanded by the Blueshirts, who heard it from the crowd.

Lafreniere nearly had Chytil for his 20th. But a quick reacting Jones made the key stop to deny the blistering Chytil, who had his goal streak snapped at five games. During it, he scored seven goals. If you’re keeping track, it really was eight. But they didn’t reward him a goal the other night. So, he remains at 19 for the season.

After taking a three-goal lead to the locker room, the Rangers looked to finish off the Kraken early. Jordan Eberle was called for high-sticking Miller. The new look top unit that now has Chytil replacing Trocheck, who’s on the second unit, made it happen.

Fox passed down low for Kreider. On a set play, he made a no look backhand pass across for an easy Zibanejad finish at 3:19 to increase the lead to 5-1. It was his team-leading 15th power play goal and 26th overall. He’s 4-1-5 over the last three games since the Rangers returned from the All-Star break.

Game over. Right? Wrong. Before you could blink, the Kraken struck twice within a 22-second span to cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-3 with still 14:01 remaining.

With Mikkola off for hooking Morgan Geekie, Jared McCann took a Vince Dunn pass and rifled home his team-leading 24th with Alex Wennberg standing in front.

On the next shift, Dunn got the puck up for Donato on the right side. He fired a pass to lead Brandon Tanev in on a breakaway. He got behind Schneider and then went to the backhand to beat Shesterkin. That suddenly made it a two-goal game with plenty of time left.

A couple of minutes later, Mikkola cleared a puck into the bench area. Somehow, they missed it. Instead, they thought it went directly out. Instead of conferencing to make sure they got it right, they gave Seattle a power play. Gallant had that look on his face. The death stare.

At least, the Rangers were able to kill the phantom penalty. Had they not, it could’ve been a 5-4 game with still half the period left. Can you imagine? They led 5-1 after Zibanejad scored with 16:41 remaining.

This has become a disturbing trend. Letting third period leads slip away. We saw it against the Flames and the Canucks. They have to fix it. That won’t fly in the playoffs. Especially if the first round opponent is the dangerous Devils. They can score goals quickly.

Late in the period, Lafreniere made a great defensive play. Forcing a turnover inside the Ranger zone, he broke away with McCann trailing him from behind. As the crowd anticipated the shot, McCann made a good defensive play by lifting the stick. But, he was called for hooking.

On a wild sequence where Fox dove to try to keep a puck in, the Kraken went the opposite direction for a shorthanded bid. Following some good hustle from Kreider to prevent Tanev from scoring on Shesterkin, who made the key save, a penalty was called.

At first, it looked like Kreider would go off. But he did nothing wrong. Instead, Fox replaced Kreider in the penalty box. Exasperated, he asked for an explanation after being called for tripping Yanni Gourde. It made no sense at all. He dove to keep the puck alive. It was inadvertent. This was the third straight call they got wrong.

Following some four-on-four, the Kraken went on the power play. They would pull Jones for a six-on-four advantage. It didn’t matter. Instead, Lindgren got to a loose puck in his end and sent the puck down into the vacated net for his first of the season. A nice reward for the birthday boy. He officially turned 25 at midnight.

That shorthanded empty net goal finally put the game out of reach. They gave Tarasenko the game’s First Star. He heard a lot more cheers. It was a nice start to his Rangers career. How long it lasts no one knows. Let’s enjoy it. Maybe there will be a big payoff.


3rd 🌟 Oliver Bjorkstrand, Kraken goal (10) plus 🍎, 2 SOG in 8 attempts, Even in 18:10

2nd 🌟 🤩 Vladimir Tarasenko, Rangers scored 1st as a Ranger for first goal since 12/23, 2 SOG in 5 attempts, +1 in 13:58

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ Kaapo Kakko, Rangers tied career best with 10th goal plus 🍎, 3 SOG in 5 attempts, -1 in 15:24


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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