Prudential Center—The NY Rangers had payback and redemption on their minds after a 7-4 defeat on March 22, 2022, scoring two power-play goals on the way to a 3-1 win over the NJ Devils at the Rock.
Ryan Strome found his way back into the Rangers lineup Tuesday night against New Jersey, marking the first return from an injury that had him sidelined for four games. Andrew Copp, who filled in for Strome at center in his absence, moved over to the right-wing of that unit.
“He’s a big part of our group, obviously,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of Strome. “Power-play unit and playing with Artemi Panarin on that line, makes a big difference for our team. He’s an important player for us.”
This one was a much-needed bounce-back victory after a couple of troubling losses.
The power-play scores were in the opening 20 minutes of the game kept the Rangers up through the second period. In their last meeting, the Devils put up six on goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who ultimately finished the contest with 21 saves in his 12th win of the season.
Strome tied it a 1-1 game with a power-play goal at 11:07 of the first period in his return, the Devils’ Pavel Zacha handed the Rangers another power play when he was called for holding Adam Fox.
Kreider’s deflection pass from Artemi Panarin put the Rangers up 2-1 at 17:57. The power-play goal was Kreider’s 25th of the season, which surpassed Jaromir Jagr to set a new Rangers record, as well as his 10th game-winning goal of the season, which established another Rangers record.
“I think it’s just a testament to our power play,” Kreider said. “The guys that I’m playing with are amazing — so many weapons.”
Kappo Kakko missed his 30th straight game with an upper-body injury, while Kevin Rooney sat out of his 17th in a row with a similar injury . The two have been skating on their own, according to Gallant, but are still not ready to reconvene with the team.
Justin Braun, skating in just his third game with the NY Rangers, provided an insurance goal just under four minutes into the third period. His long shot from the top of the zone made it a two-goal contest. However, it was his defensive partner, Braden Schneider, who sparked the Rangers earlier in the night.
“We could probably be better in the final two periods,” said Strome, who returned to the Rangers’ lineup after a four-game absence with an undisclosed lower-body injury. “But at this time in the season, we got to find different ways to win. Whether it’s going to be the power play, goaltending or penalty killing, yeah we’d like to have 40 shots a game, but last few games we had 40 and we lost. It’s just about finding a way at this point.”
Rangers players have begun talking about the postseason even as the team’s magic number to clinch rested at eight points (a combination of eight points gained or lost by the Islanders). Justin Braun, who has 100 games of tournament experience and went to the Cup final in 2016 with the San Jose Sharks, emphasized the importance of a team ramping up and feeling good about its game entering the playoffs. Alexis Lafreniere acknowledged the challenge of remaining focused on the task at hand while the playoffs are four weeks away.
“You want to play well, that’s the bottom line,” Gallant said. “We’re going to have a bunch of guys around here, there’s gonna be 25 or 27 guys around here shortly. The injured guys come back. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You want to win hockey games. That’s the bottom line.
“We want to play well and want to get everybody going. But in the same hand, you’d like to give some people a little bit of a break.”