Tkachuk and Senators ruin Kane’s Broadway debut, Rangers outplayed in third, Motte leaves game with possible head injury, Tarasenko tallies again in loss

Twenty-four hours after waiting to make his Broadway debut, Patrick Kane put on the freshly minted Blueshirt with his number 88 on it. The future Hall Of Famer played in his first game as a New York Ranger.

It was eventful. In a highly anticipated match at the World’s Most Famous Arena on 33rd and 7th, the Rangers took on the rejuvenated Senators. As good as it started with Chris Kreider scoring his team-leading fourth shorthanded goal in beating former teammate Cam Talbot on a breakaway, it didn’t quite have the ending they’d hoped for.

A game that was a very hot ticket with the average cost going around $215 a pop, which was the most expensive since they retired the number of Henrik Lundqvist, wound up in favor of the aggressive Senators, who came back to post a 5-3 win over the Rangers at a packed MSG.

Despite Kane reuniting with Artemi Panarin on a cohesive second line centered by Vincent Trocheck, neither former Blackhawk scored. They moved the puck well, showing off some of the camaraderie they previously had in Chicago. But despite combining for 10 shots, including six from Panarin, they couldn’t quite beat Talbot, who was sharp in making 29 saves on 32 shots to earn a big win for the Senators. They’re chasing the Islanders and Penguins for the wildcard.

A night after doing enough to pull out a 3-2 victory in overtime over the Flyers, the Rangers were again shorthanded. Playing without both the injured Ryan Lindgren and suspended K’Andre Miller, who will serve the final game on Saturday for the spitting incident with Drew Doughty, they went with five defensemen. At least Kane made it a full dozen forwards on the bench.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. A dangerous high hit from Austin Watson caught Tyler Motte in the helmet for a charging major and game misconduct before 13 minutes had elapsed. Motte exited the game with Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay for the locker room. He didn’t return.

What that could mean is a potential head injury for Motte, who was re-acquired from Ottawa to fill a key checking role like he did last year. It had to be concussion protocol. Coach Gerard Gallant didn’t provide any update, indicating that it was an upper-body injury. We won’t know anything else until the weekend.

Skating two men short again, the Blueshirts got worn down by the very physical Senators. Ottawa outscored the Rangers 3-0 in the deciding third period. They out-shot the Blueshirts 12-6.

It wasn’t like it was one-sided. However, Senators captain Brady Tkachuk imposed his will. The behemoth of a powerhouse made an impact in sparking the Sens to the comeback win. He was very active during shifts, using his unique combination of size, strength, and skill to make a difference.

Held without a point during the first two periods that saw the score in favor of the very skilled Rangers that included a beauty scored by an improving Vladimir Tarasenko on a breakaway, Tkachuk was around it a lot. So were his teammates, including former popular Ranger Derick Brassard, who was recognized by the Garden for playing his 1,000th career NHL game. That was a cool moment. Big Game Brass is fondly remembered by the fans.

Brassard would enjoy a memorable night by scoring twice, including the tying goal on a nifty spin around backhand in tight that fooled Jaroslav Halak. His second of the game came on a steal from Claude Giroux, who got the puck to him in front to take advantage of a Halak turnover.

Less than two minutes later, it was another active shift from Tkachuk that helped set up a hard shot from Travis Hamonic with traffic in front. Halak couldn’t control the rebound, allowing an unchecked Giroux to get the game-winner with 16:34 remaining.

Giroux continued his big first season with the Senators by also adding a second helper on the empty netter from Tim Stutzle that came with 2:42 left in regulation. The former Flyers captain who signed with Ottawa was named the game’s First Star with a goal and two assists.

It really was all about Tkachuk, who had a goal wiped out on a good offsides challenge by Gallant. The replays showed that he was just ahead of the puck as it entered the zone. He made a great deflection with Braden Schneider draped all over him. That kept the score 4-3.

Tkachuk is the kind of physical force that can take over a game. It’s a good thing the Rangers won’t see him or the emerging Stutzle in the playoffs. They’re a nightmare match-up. With Jakob Chychrun added to solidify the blue line, Ottawa will continue to make their playoff push. They might run out of time. But the future is bright.

The biggest reason for the loss was the power failure. Ottawa kept giving the Rangers power plays. However, they never took advantage of the undisciplined penalties the Senators took. That included the Watson charging major that knocked Motte out of the game.

Already leading by one on a great shorthanded goal from Kreider in which he went backhand deke on Talbot, Kane nearly had Panarin for a goal on a good shift. But Talbot shut it down. He kept the Sens in it with 11 stops in a busy first.

It could’ve been worse. When Watson came up high making contact with Motte’s head, refs Pierre Lambert and Peter MacDougall made sure by confirming their call on replay. It didn’t take long to assess Watson a five-minute major for charging and game misconduct. Watson listened to their explanation as he skated off the ice.

Gallant mostly rolled with the brand new top power play unit that consists of Panarin and Fox on the points with Mika Zibanejad, Kreider, and Kane up front. No problem, right? Not exactly. They were a bit too deliberate. Talbot made the saves when he needed to. But he wasn’t under duress. Ottawa has a good penalty kill.

The little used second unit mostly featured Trocheck, Jacob Trouba, Filip Chytil, Tarasenko, and Kaapo Kakko, who I feel isn’t as good a fit as the more active Alexis Lafreniere. He would see one short shift in the third. Not enough for a player who provides the nuts and bolts. The closest they came to scoring was a setup for Tarasenko, who was denied by Talbot.

If there’s been a good development over the past two games, it looks like Tarasenko is finally getting the cobwebs out. In the 3-2 win at the Flyers, he assisted on a pair and picked up the overtime winner when he took a Chytil pass and scored off the rush past Carter Hart. A snipe. Tarasenko stayed hot. He would score a beauty later that had the Rangers ahead 3-2.

Ottawa got caught with too many men in the final minute of a sloppy first period. However, the Rangers didn’t score on the first part and failed to capitalize on the remaining 1:34 to start the second. It was a missed opportunity. Gallant talked about good puck movement, but too many passes. Something Kane also alluded to in the postgame. He had four shots on goal and came close on a tip try.

Ottawa was able to hang around. Chychrun took a slashing minor following their second successful kill. They would again keep the Rangers off the scoreboard. With Schneider off for a hook, it was the Blueshirts who got it done on the kill. They aren’t ranked that high. But the threat of scoring shorthanded can make opponents back pedal. Kreider had Zibanejad, but he missed wide.

Prior to the game, I thought the two teams would combine for eight total goals. That was my guess last night. For nearly half the game, it didn’t look like it would happen. But, things really picked up.

On a play where the Rangers got caught watching, Drake Batherson and Alex DeBrincat combined to set up rookie Shane Pinto for an easy put away for his 16th to tie the score at 9:42.

The Sens then went ahead 21 seconds later. It was Brassard who struck for his first of the night when he tipped in a Mathieu Joseph shot for his 10th at 10:03.

However, the Rangers had a strong response. On a good shift over two minutes later, Trocheck got the puck to Panarin, who circled around and found a cutting Trouba. He went to the backhand and had his shot bank in off a player in front. Trocheck was also nearby. Trouba’s fifth came from Panarin (50th assist) and Trocheck at 12:15 to tie the score.

Two and a half minutes later, it was Tarasenko who scored on a breakaway. After he took a feed from Ben Harpur, Zibanejad was able to find Tarasenko at the Ottawa blue line. He split Chychrun and Nick Holden to break in and pull a Forsberg, tucking in a backhand on an over-committed Talbot for his fourth as a Blueshirt. It was the highlight of the night.

It’s interesting how Talbot was the goalie on both those Forsberg tallies. One of course dates back to when he played for our team. He was a popular backup behind the legendary Henrik Lundqvist. Without him, no President’s Trophy in ’14-15. I’m sure they’d have traded it for a Stanley Cup. They would’ve faced Kane’s Blackhawks.

When Artem Zub got called for interference on a cheap hit from behind on Trocheck, the Rangers again saw their shadow. They fired blanks or passed the puck too much. There were moments where both Kane and Panarin deferred instead of shooting. That’ll change. They’ll be better.

Mikkola took his latest minor penalty with 44 seconds left for interfering with Batherson. However, Ottawa couldn’t convert on the split power play. They came in ranked fourth. But wound up minus-one with Kreider scoring the Rangers’ eighth shorthanded goal back in the first.

This one wasn’t about the special teams. It came down to five-on-five play in the third period. One in which the Senators pushed the pace. They weren’t playing the second of a back-to-back like the Blueshirts. They had more left in the tank. It really showed.

On what was a good play by Giroux, he moved the puck in front for an open Brassard, who, instead of going forehand, fooled Halak by spinning off for a backhand short side to tie the score at 1:35. A heady play by the veteran.

The Sens kept the momentum going. On some strong play by Tkachuk down low, he got the puck up for a Hamonic shot that an isolated Giroux rebounded home without much resistance for his 26th to give Ottawa a 4-3 lead.

It almost got worse. On a close play at the Rangers blue line, Tkachuk thought he’d stayed onside on the entry. During the shift, he banged into Lafreniere, who looked the worst for wear. Then, he tipped in a Giroux shot pass to temporarily make it 5-3. But the Rangers bench made a smart challenge. It definitely was close. But after taking their time to review the video, that also means putting time back on the clock. They got the call right. It was offsides. Tkachuk even smirked.

Despite some timely saves from Halak, who would only want the second Brassard goal back, the Rangers never were able to create that magic moment. I thought they’d tie it. But it wasn’t meant to be in Kane’s Garden debut.

With under three minutes left, Gallant went for it by going for the six-on-five. Obviously, the six skaters are easy to name. So, I’m not gonna bother. Initially, Halak was going to be near the bench with the face-off in the Senators end. But Turk changed his mind to go with his six best skaters.

If there was a miscalculation, it was not having Trocheck out to go against Giroux on the draw. Zibanejad took it instead. He didn’t lose it per se. But the skaters went forward, allowing Giroux to come out with the puck and narrowly miss an empty netter.

A racing Tkachuk negated an icing. He then found Stutzle for an easy finish into the vacated net for the 5-3 final with 2:42 left. Gallant’s gamble didn’t work.

Sometimes, that’s how it goes. Ottawa was simply better when it counted. They held the Rangers to six shots in the final period. They scored their two pair early to flip the script. Tkachuk didn’t get a star. But he should have. It’s not always about goals and points. He was the difference.

Next up are the number one overall Bruins. They whipped the Sabres by turning a 3-0 game into a 7-1 laugher. Even minus Taylor Hall (LTIR) and Nick Foligno, they added Dmitry Orlov (6 points in 3 games) and Garnet Hathaway. They also picked up Tyler Bertuzzi yesterday to bolster their depth.

Boston is up to 101 points. Led by David Pastrnak (43 goals), Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (left game with injury), they are as complete a team as there is. They’re four lines deep and are well balanced defensively. Plus, feature Vezina favorite Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.

If the Rangers are without both Lindgren and Motte, which is a real possibility, they could be forced to play two men short. That’s what they’ve put themselves in with the Tarasenko and huge Kane acquisition. It’s not about the regular season. It’s about the postseason. They have 20 games remaining to jell. Ten home and ten away, including five in a row on the road starting tomorrow afternoon.

Let’s hope it’s not another embarrassment on national TV after last week. That was before Kane. It’ll be their third game over four days. It’s sure to be a tough test.


3rd 🌟 Derick Brassard, Senators scored 2 goals (10, 11) in 1,000th career game, 3 hits, +2 in 11:55

2nd 🌟 🤩 Claude Giroux, Senators goal (26th) plus 2 🍎, 4 SOG in 8 attempts, 2 takeaways, 7-for-13 on draws, +3 in 19:01

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ Brady Tkachuk, Senators 2 🍎, 2 SOG in 4 attempts, 3 hits, 2 takeaways, 3-of-6 on draws, even in 18:25, willed team to victory


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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