For the past week or so Blueshirts fans been hearing how bad the Rangers would be this season, but for one night at least the Rangers had the last laugh. As promised, Jaromir Jagr took hold of the game in the third period with back-to-back power play goals, capitalizing on the defense provided by Kevin Weekes and a much-improved penalty kill unit that kept the home team to just one goal in ten opportunities, including killing off two out of the three 5 on 3 power plays awarded to the Flyers.
It was the type of night that Rangers fans have been looking for from their team for years, a team that came out on the ice prepared, fought through adversity, and outworked their opponents as they put together four unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 victory.
While the Rangers did start well, things didn’t quite go to plan in the first half of the game. They took the lead in mid-way through the first on a Jason Strudwick shot from the point that found it’s way through Robert Esche for the 1-0 Rangers lead. Just over two minutes later and the game was tied when Jed Ortmeyer and Blair Betts failed to connect on a hand-off at their blueline, allowing Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne to break in two on one on Kevin Weekes and a Gagne goal.
New York then fell behind 2-1 following back to back penalties to Jaromir Jagr and Darius Kasparaitis that allowed former Ranger Mike Knuble converted on the five on three power play from the slot. Rookie Mike Richards made it 3-1 for the home team in the second period, when he collected a pass on the Rangers blue line and beat a retreating Tyutin to deliver a smart wrist shot that beat Kevin Weekes for his first NHL goal in his first NHL appearance.
Trailing the Flyers by two goals, the Rangers struggled to stay out of the penalty box. Jagr was called for interference after he played the puck before he had cleared the boards on a line change and then put the team down two men for the third time in the game minutes later when he was involved in a poor line change while his team was already on the penalty kill. A combination of strong penalty killing, timely saves by Kevin Weekes and a touch of luck kept the Rangers within striking distance.
Michael Nylander had the first opportunity to pull his team back within one, when he was tackled by Peter Forsberg on the rush and awarded a penalty shot. Nylander managed to beat Esche on a backhand deke, but hit the underside of the cross-bar and failed on the attempt. The Rangers would not however, have to wait much longer. With just over three minutes left in the second period, Jaromir Jagr forced a turnover in the Flyers zone, allowing Jamie Lundmark to pick up the loose puck and unleash a slap shot over the glove side of Robert Esche for his first NHL goal since November 1st, 2003.
Going into the third period, the Rangers once again took an early penalty, when Kasparaitis took an interference penalty to put the team down a man once more. A successful penalty kill behind them, the Rangers finally set their sights on the offensive zone, and an aggressive forecheck by the fourth line gave them that chance. With preseason scoring leader Jon Sim in the penalty box, Jaromir Jagr fulfilled his preseason expectations with the first of two power play goals, a quick wrister from the hashmarks that appeared to simply beat Esche with it’s speed.
Five minutes later and it was almost a repeat performance. Once again on the power player, Jagr worked his way into the slot and once again beat the Flyers netminder with a quick wrist shot, putting the Rangers ahead for good. An opportunistic goal from Marcel Hossa, who picked up a loose Steve Rucchin shot and tapped it into the open net sealed the game, giving the Rangers an uncommon opening night victory on the road.
The Rangers now head into tomorrow night’s home opener against the Montreal Canadiens with an unexpected victory and will look to avoid the fate of the 2002-03 Rangers team, which returned home from an equally impressive 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on opening night to lose 4-1 to the visiting Canadiens.
|OTG Star Rangers
|Took the game into his own hands in the third with two power play goals
|Kept the Rangers in the game when they were shorthanded
|Was strong in the offensive zone, helping to create space for his line mates
|Looked in sync with his line-mates, created his own offense
|Knocked out Seidenberg with a hit and played well particularly in the 3rd
|Very steady game of the rookie, played well in his own zone
|Looked good on the penalty kill and defensively
|Looked much more energetic than in preseason, opportunistic goal
|Picked up a couple of assists on the power play, still needs to finish
|Played well on the penalty kill
|Quiet for the most part until the 3rd, opportunistic goal
|Looked a little slow, but played within his limits for the most part
|Saw time on the PK and defensively at the end of the game
|Used his body, looked a little slow at times
|Steady game for the much maligned defenseman, no obvious mistakes
|Got better as the game went on, in his element defending the lead
|Picked up the Rangers first goal, steady in his own zone for the most part
|Looked a little slow out there, but played conservatively
|Better play than in the preseason, but still looks slow
|The preseason was forgotten as Renney brought his team ready to play
|Petr Prucha and Maxim Kondratiev were healthy scratches on the night, Ville Nieminen remained out with a groin injury
|Darius Kasparaitis, Steve Rucchin and Jaromir Jagr each wore an “A” for the game
|11 players made their Ranger debuts
|Marcel Hossa and Jason Strudwick scored their first points as a Ranger
|Ryan Hollweg, Steve Rucchin, Michael Nylander, Martin Straka and Jason Strudwick registered their first points as Rangers
|Kevin Weekes registered his first win as a Ranger