As debuts go, Peter Laviolette’s start couldn’t have gone better with the New York Rangers.
The Blueshirts impressively opened their 2023 regular season by blitzing the young Buffalo Sabres early and often in an eventual 5-1 drubbing Thursday night.
The opening night win was the first for Laviolette since being hired by the team as head coach during the offseason. Improved play in the neutral zone and offensive end were apparent throughout the early stages of the contest.
Probably the best news of the night though came in the first goal of the year. Shrugging off a poor preseason that had several questioning his future with the Rangers, Alexis Lafreniere came out on fire by burying a beautiful feed from Artemi Panarin for the early one-goal lead. New York would later add to their total in the first period on the powerplay where Chris Kreider would deflect an Adam Fox rocket for a two-goal advantage after one.
New York’s dominance on the ice would only increase in the second period. After being unable to put up a shot on goal through the first six minutes, a forced turnover by Lafreniere would find its way to Panarin who would rocket home a goal for a 3-0 lead.
JJ Peterka would finally get Buffalo on the scoreboard late in the second period, but New York kept last season’s high-powered offense in check for the rest of the contest.
In the final period, while the Rangers struggled to stay out of the penalty box, Mika Zibanejad found Kreider on the kill to give New York a 4-1 advantage. Jacob Trouba’s empty-net goal put the icing on the cake for what was a tremendously impressive start to the Laviolette era.
For their next contest, New York (1-0) will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night in Ohio.