The New York Rangers’ ambitious early season dream of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs is now starting to look like a reality. After inking Chris Kreider to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal right before the trade deadline passed, the Rangers faced the rival Islanders at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Tuesday night. With a two-goal lead with about six minutes remaining in the third, winger Jordan Eberle stashed one past Rangers’ goalie Alexander Georgiev. Then, with 18 seconds remaining, center Brock Nelson potted one behind Georgiev to tie the game and send it to overtime.
But, Mika Zibanejad eventually played the role of hero with 4:32 remaining in overtime. Zibanejad stepped into a slapshot and beat Islanders’ goalie Semyon Varlamov to give the Blueshirts their fourth straight win. Let’s take a look at the key takeaways from the latest Battle of New York. (from ‘Mika Zibanejad scores in overtime to lift Rangers past Islanders,’ Newsday, 02/25/2020)
Nassau Coliseum had a different kind of feel to it throughout the game. For the first time in a long time, the Rangers faithful had a playoff push to cheer for. This game meant something for the Rangers, who are now winners of eight straight road games, which is the new franchise record.
The Blueshirts had a chance to take the season series against the Islanders and they capitalized. Without a doubt, this contest on Long Island felt like a playoff game with a playoff-like atmosphere, something the Rangers have gone a long time without. A game like this is only beneficial for a young team and it was a great learning experience for what the road will be like in the future with the season on the line.
Georgiev the Great
Georgiev was the unsung hero Tuesday night for the Rangers. The Blueshirts were outshot in every period, notably in the first period when the Islanders had 15 shots compared to 7 for the Rangers. Georgiev only let in one goal until there were about six minutes left in the third period and the net-minder stood strong for the majority of the contest. The Bulgaria native totaled 42 saves on 45 shots and propelled the Rangers to victory tonight.
Related: Chris Kreider’s Contract Pros & Cons
Even with rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin on the shelf for a few weeks due to a rib injury, the Blueshirts will be just fine in net as long as Georgiev builds off of his most recent performance.
Role Players Making Impact
Defensemen Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren made a massive impact on the game. Lindgren set up Panarin beautifully on the first goal and finished the night with two assists against the Islanders. Fox got an assist on the Greg McKegg goal, the rookie’s 26th assist and 32nd point of the season. This defensive pair made the difference tonight for the Rangers, but other role players stepped up as well.
Brendan Smith, who has more of an expanded role due to the departure of Brady Skjei, played well with extra minutes from head coach David Quinn. Smith notched an assist on the third Rangers’ goal from Brett Howden. If the role players continue to provide depth, the Rangers will keep racking up wins.
Top Playmakers Thriving
With the Rangers giving up the tying goal with about 18 seconds left on the road against a rival, one would think that the Islanders would’ve come away with the win on Long Island. However, just when the Blueshirts looked like they were down and out, the Rangers’ top two point scorers came up with the winning plays.
Panarin, who finished the night with a goal and an assist, was the player that became triple-teamed in the Islanders’ end in overtime. Panarin got slowed down on a brief breakaway, lost the puck, but was able to knock it over to Zibanejad who buried the one-timer past Varlamov. At the end of the night, it’s just the playmakers making the clutch plays for a team that is itching for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Also on Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets both lost, bringing the Rangers even closer to the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. With now just 20 games left to be played, the Rangers will be carrying their massive momentum to Montreal on Thursday.
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Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.