New York struggled against one of the best teams in the Western Conference when it lost twice to the Colorado Avalanche in a span of four games, and that came when the Rangers had Artemi Panarin on the ice.
On Friday, the Rangers may be without Panarin when they return home and face another high-scoring opponent from the West, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Panarin leads the Rangers with 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) and is day-to-day with a lower body injury. He played only seven minutes in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the league-worst Arizona Coyotes. He did not return to the ice after taking a lengthy shift in the opening minutes of the second period.
“You don’t want to lose anyone, but obviously him and his caliber, it’s tough to lose him,” New York center Mika Zibanejad said. “But at the same time, we got to do a job and try to — you can’t really fill that void.”
Without one of their most dynamic playmakers, the Rangers figured out a way to survive his absence and avoid three straight regulation losses for the first time this year.
Kaapo Kakko was moved up the top power-play unit and scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:18 remaining when the Rangers capitalized on a penalty. Kakko also scored in the second period to tie the game at 1, and Zibanejad forged a 2-2 tie when he scored on the power play about 3 1/2 minutes before the game-winner.
“You have to dig down and find a way,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “He’s obviously one of our best players, if not our best player.”
New York, which will be playing its seventh game in 11 days, is 2-3-0 in its past five games. Before that, the Rangers had racked up seven straight wins. In the two losses to Colorado, New York was outscored 11-5.
Vegas is facing Gallant for the first time since firing him on Jan. 15, 2020, after he coached the first 213 regular-season games in franchise history and led the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.
The Golden Knights are 6-1-0 in their past seven games and have scored 33 of their 104 goals in that span. On Thursday, Vegas recorded a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J. in a game that hardly thrilled coach Pete DeBoer.
“We did just enough to win,” DeBoer said after his team scored at least five goals for the 11th time this season. “We take the two points and move on. I liked our first (period), hated our second, and we were opportunistic in the third.”
The Golden Knights held a 4-1 lead 8:10 into the third on goals by Dylan Coghlan, William Carrier, William Karlsson and Nicolas Roy. They held on in the final minutes after goaltender Robin Lehner got into a fracas with New Jersey defenseman Mason Geertsen in the final seconds.
Despite the win, two Vegas players had scoring streaks stopped.Max Pacioretty had scored a goal in seven straight games, and Mark Stone had a franchise-record nine-game assist streak snapped.
Pacioretty has 10 goals and six assists in his past 10 games, while Stone has four goals and 11 assists in his last 10.
“I think every line feels confident,” Karlsson said. “It’s one of our strengths.”
Friday is the teams’ first meeting since the Rangers cruised to a 5-0 win at Vegas on Dec. 8, 2019. The Golden Knights are 4-2-0 all-time against New York.
–Field Level Media