Resilient Rangers show character in three-goal comeback to best the Oilers in a shootout, Shesterkin responds to bad first period, Mika Magic and Lafreniere step up, Kreider on a heater

It would’ve been easy to say it’s not their night. But that’s not in the dictionary. The Rangers picked themselves up off the mat from a standing eight count and dug deep to rally back from a pair of three-goal deficits to best the Oilers 5-4 in a shootout at Rogers Place.

By showing the same resilience they had last year, the Blueshirts rallied to win their seventh straight game. In doing so, they pulled within a point of the idle Devils for second place in the Metro Division. With 27 games remaining, they’re 32-14-8 with 74 points. Although they didn’t gain in regulation wins, which is the first tiebreaker, they remained deadlocked at 26 with the Devils, who have 28 games left.

Both rivals are back in action on Saturday. The Devils visit the Penguins with the odd 5:30 start time. The Rangers will complete their three-game Western Canadian swing by facing the Flames at 10 PM. If it’s anything like the rock ’em sock ’em game they had at MSG, it should be well worth watching. Especially on a weekend.

The offense continues to produce. They scored at least four goals for the seventh consecutive game. That’s the first time the Rangers have done that since 1990-91 that ran from Feb. 6 through Feb. 21. It’s pretty ironic that this current stretch has come during a similar time period.

In what amounted to a putrid start following a disjointed performance in a 6-4 win over the Canucks, the Rangers fell behind early against the league’s top offense. Edmonton quickly got the game’s first three goals over a 4:38 span.

A Vincent Trocheck undisciplined minor penalty in the offensive zone when he knocked Jack Campbell’s stick out sent the Oilers to the power play. Connor McDavid was able to find Zach Hyman in front, where he came close to stuffing the puck in. However, it rebounded off Igor Shesterkin right to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who buried it for his 27th at 7:52.

Before five minutes had elapsed, it was the Edmonton fourth line that created the second goal. In on the forecheck against the Rangers fourth line and third defensive pair, Mattias Janmark passed for a Warren Foegle shot that came directly to Tyson Barrie in the slot for the finish at 12:11. It exemplified a sharp contrast between two fourth lines. The Rangers need to upgrade theirs before the 3 PM deadline on March 3.

On the next shift, it was some more hard work from secondary players that made it 3-0 just 19 seconds later. On more sustained pressure down low, Jesse Puljujarvi and Zach Hyman combined to feed Derek Ryan, who picked high glove on the suddenly vulnerable Shesterkin. He’s been giving it up more. That’s definitely an area that must get fixed.

Trailing by three, the Rangers got a reprieve thanks to Darnell Nurse going off for slashing Vladimir Tarasenko. On the power play, Chris Kreider ended a three month drought by getting his first power play goal since Nov. 13. On a great passing play, Artemi Panarin passed over for Mika Zibanejad, who one touched a centering feed down low for a Kreider put away for his 23rd at 13:36.

The goal extended his point streak to seven in a row. He wasn’t done either. It’s safe to say Kreider is back in form. He’s finishing with regularity and primed to hit 30 goals for the second straight season. Though he won’t come close to the career high 52 or 26 PPG, the power forward is delivering for this team.

On what was obviously an accidental clear out of play by K’Andre Miller for a delay of game minor, the Oilers took full advantage by cashing in for their second power play goal of the period. This time, it was the familiar combination of McDavid to Leon Draisaitl, whose quick shot beat Shesterkin far side for his 32nd at 18:27 to restore a three-goal lead late in the period.

It was particularly frustrating. Shesterkin was a bit too passive on the play. An Edmonton staple. McDavid loves to find Draisaitl either on the right side or in the circle for the one-timer. Shesterkin didn’t come out to challenge the shooter, making it an easier finish for Draisaitl, who is a world-class player.

With a pair of assists, McDavid went over the century mark in points. In 56 games, he leads the league in scoring with an NHL best 42 goals and 101 points. The Oilers have 26 games left. How many points can he get to? I believe he will approach 140. He’s at the height of his career.

Trailing 4-1, the Rangers began to chip away in a more inspired second period. That included Shesterkin, who delivered the biggest save of the game when he stoned McDavid in front when he was all set up. After allowing four goals on 12 shots in the first period, he responded by stopping the remaining 17 shots, including nine in the second.

While Shesterkin steadied in net after Gerard Gallant made the right decision to stick with him due to Jaroslav Halak getting tonight’s game in Calgary, the Rangers were having trouble beating Jack Campbell. He made several big saves, including a tough stop to deny Trocheck. The best would come later in the period.

Ironically enough, it was a penalty that actually turned things around. Alexis Lafreniere went off for holding Hyman. With a chance to really bury them, the Oilers’ dangerous power play got too passive. They relaxed just enough for the Rangers to strike for a critical goal shorthanded.

On some strong defensive work by both Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox, they got the puck up for Kreider. He moved quickly in transition to create a two-on-one. Instead of shooting, he went for the pass across for a cutting Zibanejad. But the puck came right back to him on a favorable bounce where he was able to beat Campbell with a backhand for the shorthanded goal that made it 4-2 at 6:26.

Shortly after, Shesterkin made another gigantic save to deny McDavid on a slap shot. Following that key stop, the momentum swung. A few more saves kept the Rangers within two.

With Kailer Yamamoto off for interfering with Barclay Goodrow, Campbell robbed Chytil and then got over to glove a Zibanejad shot from his office. Despite his team backing off, Campbell played very well. He finished with 34 saves on 38 shots to take the hard luck loss.

On another effective shift by the Oilers’ secondary forwards, Ryan McLeod had a shot ring off the crossbar. That close to a three-goal lead again. On the opposite end, during the same shift, Lafreniere had a shot stopped by Campbell.

As the second period moved on, it was the more aggressive Rangers who applied the pressure. They came close a few different times to pulling within one. Jimmy Vesey missed wide. Then Lindgren was stopped by Campbell, who was sharp throughout.

His best saves came when he first dove across to stone Chytil of a sure goal. On the play, he looked to have Campbell at his mercy. But the Edmonton goalie got his glove up to force Chytil to wait. By the time he fired, the sprawling Campbell made the acrobatic save to cheers from the crowd.

With under a minute left, Trocheck made a great pass across to Vesey for what looked like another sure goal. However, Campbell had other ideas by diving across to rob Vesey with a remarkable pad save. He could only shake his head in disbelief.

The good news is they got the only goal of the period and outplayed the Oilers. The bad news was the brilliant play of Campbell, who seems to have taken the net back from Stuart Skinner.

Undeterred, the Rangers kept coming in the third period. On what amounted to a great play off an offensive draw taken by Chytil, Kaapo Kakko drove to the net and made a smart back pass for an open Lafreniere in the slot. His wrist shot beat Campbell stick side to cut the deficit to one only 1:36 into the period.

That gave Lafreniere nine points (4-5-9) in the last 10 since Jan. 19. He’s been a different player since rejoining Kakko and Chytil. The primary assist made it 11 points (2-9-11) for Kakko since Jan. 16. He’s up to a career high 18 assists and 29 points.

With the exception of another close call for the Oilers’ fourth line in which Shesterkin was able to deny a Foegle tip-in, it was all Blueshirts. For some perplexing reason, Edmonton was content to sit back. They backed off. Even with the caliber of star talent that features McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Evander Kane, they didn’t attack.

Instead, it was the more urgent Rangers who pressed the action. Although they didn’t test Campbell as much at even strength in the period, they were aided by consecutive penalties to Janmark (hooking) and Ryan (delay of game). Two of the Oilers’ most effective players were in the box to hand the Blueshirts a five-on-three.

Gallant sent out his top unit that now includes Chytil. However, it was the more familiar faces who got it done. On what was a simple play, all Panarin did was move the puck over to Zibanejad at one point. He then passed down low for Fox, who moved the puck back up for a Zibanejad wrist shot that beat Campbell for the game-tying power play goal with 6:50 remaining.

It was his 30th of the season. It’s the third time in his career that Zibanejad has reached the 30-goal mark. He also did it in ’18-19 and ’19-20 when he scored a career high 41 in only 57 games.

Mika Magic. That makes it six games in a row that he’s scored a goal. Over the six-game torrid stretch, Zibanejad has eight goals with three helpers. Since Dec. 29, he’s up to 15 goals over the last 19 games. He’s again proving why he should be considered elite.

Following that clutch tally, Zibanejad missed twice on the following shift. Then, Chytil was again set up for what looked like a gimme. But his shot hit the far goalpost and stayed out. Otherwise, the Rangers convert on both sides of the power play. They were that close to going ahead on the five-on-four.

With the Oilers hanging on for dear life, they fortunately got two more big saves from Campbell. He made another stop on Vesey and then denied a Panarin bid off a rush. If not for him, Edmonton blows the game in regulation. It would’ve been a role reversal of the Rangers’ third period debacle in a regrettable 4-3 loss at home.

Instead, the rematch would require overtime. It nearly ended early. After Miller was stopped by Campbell, Chytil again had another shot denied. On the flip side, Shesterkin had to contend with both Draisaitl and McDavid, denying both.

Campbell made another great save when he got just enough of a Trocheck shot to keep it out. After Shesterkin stopped Nurse, an irate Zibanejad was called for taking down McDavid. His issue was Draisaitl had tripped him up right before they made the call.

On a four-on-three with 61 seconds left in overtime, the Oilers didn’t get the chances they wanted. Shesterkin came up with two more saves, including one on a McDavid shot that Jacob Trouba deflected. He also made one more stop on Barrie, who for some reason fares well versus the Rangers in his career. A Goodrow clear killed the clock to send it to a shootout.

It was unpredictable. After Nugent-Hopkins scored by beating Shesterkin short side, Kakko beat Campbell backhand top shelf to level it.

Then came something you don’t see. McDavid came in one on one with Shesterkin, who patiently out-waited him to make the save. Panarin then came out. Previously, he was 4-for-4 this season. He skated in and tried to go to the glove but missed the net.

It became even stranger when both Draisaitl and Zibanejad each missed. After Shesterkin stopped Barrie on a backhand, Tarasenko had his attempt foiled by Campbell. The Oilers then went with Ryan. But he too came up short. Out came Chytil for the win. However, Campbell again owned him.

Following an Igor stop on Yamamoto, it was Lafreniere’s turn. Instead of doing something we’d already seen, he faked and sent a backhand past Campbell to give the Rangers the win. That ended the night.


3rd 🌟 Mika Zibanejad, Rangers scored tying PPG (30) plus 🍎, 3 SOG, 9-7 on draws, +1 in 22:13

2nd 🌟 🤩 Alexis Lafreniere, Rangers goal (9th) and shootout winner, 2 SOG, Even in 14:58

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ Chris Kreider, Rangers 2 goals including PPG and shorthanded goal (23, 24) giving him 253 for career, 3 SOG, +1 in 21:07

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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