Just four months ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning got the best of the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games.
Tuesday night’s season opener was a much different story.
Mika Zibanejad scored twice, Igor Shesterkin came up big when the team needed him, and the Rangers got their revenge on the team that eliminated them the year prior by a score of 3-1.
“We played our game through minute one to minute 60 so it was a good team win,” Zibanejad said after the game.
In a contest featuring two of the best goaltenders in the country, Andrei Vasilevskiy lived up to his former Vezina trophy award saving the first 14 shots he faced in the first period. But the Ranger offense kept coming and berating the all-star.
In the end, it wasn’t just the five-on-five group that gave New York the win.
The special team’s groups continued last year’s success early and often Tuesday night. After getting six shots on goal on their first powerplay, Mika Zibanejad took matters into his own hands on the penalty kill in the second period. Zibanejad took advantage of a Lightning turnover to score the Ranger’s first goal of the year.
“I tried to look for Laffy the whole way and I ran out of room when it came to the net so I tried to make a play and score. It went in this time” Zibanejad added with a smile.
Zibanejad’s second-period goal was the first the Rangers had recorded a shorthanded goal as their first goal of the season according to the Ranger’s stats and info Twitter account.
The Lightning would answer though just six minutes later. After K’Andre Miller and Barclay Goodrow were called for dual penalties Steven Stamkos scored on a second powerplay and Tampa would tie the game.
The Rangers top line center would not be finished though on special teams. . On another powerplay midway through the third period with the score tied, Artemi Panarin found Zibanejad for the lead and the eventual winning goal.
“They are talented guys,” Gerard Gallant told AMNY after the game. “They’ve been together. The only new guy is Trocheck on the unit and he knows where he is playing. They complement each other.”
Barclay Goodrow would add to New York’s tally with a deflected shot that got past Vasilevskiy six minutes after Zibanejad’s second. Vasilevskiy in total saved 36/39 shots on the night.
The Rangers’ offensive barrage was helped by the outstanding performance of the reigning Vezina trophy winner. On Tuesday night, Igor Shesterkin saved 26 of 27 shots and outplayed his counterpart to help the Rangers pull away for the victory.
New York’s intensity was felt throughout the contest. While some may question whether it was because the team was looking for revenge from last season’s playoff loss, the Rangers coaching staff was quick to dismiss it.
“We move on from that. It’s a matter of getting two points and getting your first game under your belt and we played really well.” Gallant said.
The Rangers (1-0) will be out west for their next few games this week. They have a date with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at 8:00 pm – ET and travel to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Friday.
Rangers Game Notes
- Vitali Kravtsov exited the game midway through the first period, after a hard collision with Victor Hedman. Hedman looked to push Kravtsov’s head up against the board but was not called for a penalty. Gallant said that Kravtsov is “day-to-day” and will be evaluated further tomorrow.
- The Rangers dominated in almost every statistical category. They outshot the Lightning (39-27), dominated the face-off battle (64%-36%), and also out-hit Tampa en route to the win.
- The Kid Line had been broken up to start the game when Kaapo Kakko played with Zibanejad and Kreider on the top line, but the coaching staff was incredibly impressed with the youth on the team. “All those young kids played like men tonight,” Gallant said after the game.
- Ryan Carpenter and Vincent Trocheck were brought in, in part, to help with the face-off battles. They both did their job excellently. Carpenter won 75% of the face-offs he had and Trocheck won 63%.