The New York Rangers’ victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night was not an easy one despite the Coyotes’ record this season. In fact, they were the better team for a good part of the game. The Coyotes took two crucial penalties, which allowed the Blueshirts back into the game and to come away with two points. Here’s a look at three takeaways from the Rangers’ win last night.
Rangers’ Power Play Leads to Comeback Win
The Coyotes had a 2-1 lead late in the third period before Phil Kessel was called for interference on Kevin Rooney. The penalty allowed the Rangers to send crisp passes through the offensive zone and Mika Zibanejad to tie the game, 2-2. Zibanejad’s sixth goal of the season gave his team a spark late in regulation. His goal last night was in his second in the last week and he is capable of going on scoring streaks as he did during the 2020-21 season after his six-point game against the Philadelphia Flyers in March.
The Coyotes were then called for too many men. On the ensuing power play, Chris Kreider, the Rangers’ leading scorer, passed the puck quickly to Kaapo Kakko, who netted his second goal of the game, which turned out to be the game-winner. Kreider showed off his skills all night with assists on all three of his team’s goals.
Kinkaid Keeps Rangers in the Game
Backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid received his first start of the season against the Coyotes in the second of back-to-back games. The Rangers struggled to generate scoring chances during the first period and were outplayed by the struggling Coyotes. But Kinkaid managed to hold them to one goal, scored by Loui Eriksson late in the opening period.
Kinkaid allowed another goal in the third period but finished with solid numbers, saving 29 of the 31 shots for a save percentage (SV%) of .935. His performance showed he is capable of being a steady backup when called upon. He has performed well this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). In 11 games played, he has a record of 9-1-1, a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.59 and a .916 SV%. The Rangers have received good play from Alexandar Georgiev since Igor Shesterkin was injured earlier this month. The Blueshirts appear to have two solid backup goaltenders, which is significant given the injury history of their starting goaltender.
Kakko, Kreider Have Big Nights
Kakko, who had not hit the score sheet in several games, had a multi-goal night. The Rangers have not had steady goal production recently, but the third-year winger got the Rangers on the board after capitalizing on passes from Zibanejad and Kreider in the second period. His second goal came on the man advantage and was good enough to get the win and break a two-game losing streak. He is one of the players that increases the depth of the Blueshirts when he is playing well.
Kreider, who only had four assists entering last night’s game, created scoring chances for both Kakko and Zibanejad rather than netting goals himself. His three assists add to a remarkable season so far, and he stepped up for the team after Artemi Panarin left the game with what head coach Gerard Gallant referred to as a “minor lower-body” injury. He added that the Rangers forward is “day-to-day” (from ‘Rangers Artemi Panarin exits with ‘minor lower-body injury,’ New York Post, 12/16/21).
The Rangers earned a much-needed win over a Coyotes team that is struggling. Losing the game would not have been good for morale given the 29-point difference between the teams in the standings. The Rangers seem to do well responding to adversity this year, which is a sign of a good team that has taken the next step from rebuilding toward contending in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Capitals lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, 5-4, last night, which allowed the Rangers to tie them for the Metropolitan Division lead with 41 points. The Rangers’ next game is at home tomorrow night against the Vegas Golden Knights, and they will need to continue playing well if they want to sit alone atop the division standings.