Three minutes and fifty seconds into last night’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ryan Reaves took a holding penalty. It was the second penalty they’d taken, and the Rangers were already down 2-0, thanks to a converted turnover from the stick of Ryan Lindgren, and a conversion of an offensive zone penalty to Chris Kreider.
To say the Rangers were off to a poor start was clearly an understatement. The Rangers struggled to handle the speed of the Maple Leafs, with the shot clock showing an 8-0 advantage to the visitors.
Then a funny thing happened. With the fourth line on the ice, Greg McKegg forced a turnover along the corner boards and Ryan Reaves found himself alone in the slot, deftly stopping the puck on the backhand and setting up for a quick forehand shot to bring the Rangers back within one goal.
It wasn’t a complete turnaround, but it seemed to settle the Rangers down, allowing the play to be a little more even for the remainder of the period, even allowing for a deflection in off of Michael Bunting’s knee as he got position on Jacob Trouba on the backdoor.
Certainly going into the first intermission down 3-1 was a little deflating, but the goal by Reaves and the steadying influence it had on the Rangers, seemed to remind them that they were still in the game.
The Leafs came out hard in the second, and if not for some timely saves by Igor Shesterkin, the game may have ended at that point, but just under three minutes into the middle period, Ryan Reaves potted his second goal as a Ranger, this time seeing his shot from a bad angle deflect off of Rasmus Sandin’s stick and up and over the shoulder of netminder Jack Campbell.
Having not scored in his first 32 games as a Ranger, Reaves now had both of the home team’s goals, and along with Igor Shesterkin, was carrying this team back into the game. By the time Adam Fox slid the puck through Campbell’s five-hole late in the second, the momentum had well and truly changed.
New York would go on to record a somewhat impressive 6-3 win, but much of the credit goes to Reaves for this win. He and his fourth line partners McKegg – who got the nod ahead of Dryden Hunt – and Kevin Rooney, were really the only effective line for much of the first half of the game, and it was their ability to figure out ways to score that finally got the rest of the team going – Shesterkin’s timely saves also a big factor of coruse, but we’ve perhaps come to expect that from the 26 year old goaltender.
Not only did the momentum shift, but the luck did as well. A Ryan Lindgren shot deflected straight to a wide open Ryan Strome who put the Rangers ahead for the first time, and a late goal by Auston Matthews that would have brought the Leafs back within one also got overturned for the proverbial “distinct kicking motion”.
What had started so disastrously had ended up as another two points for the rolling Rangers, and a boost going into Friday’s Metro-division clash with the league leading Carolina Hurricanes.