The New York Rangers began their 2023 preseason against their eternal rival, the New York Islanders, with a statement shift from the top line. That proved to be a sign of things to come, with big goals and key plays coming from familiar names.
After an encouraging start to the period, Adam Sykora drew a penalty that set the stage for Jimmy Vesey to absolutely wire one over Semyon Varlamov’s left shoulder. Vesey’s power-play goal was assisted by Filip Chytil and Brennan Othmann, but full credit goes to the veteran winger who is with the Rangers on a PTO after bouncing around the league the last few years.
About five minutes later, Chris Kreider found the back of the net by finding a rebound created by newly-minted captain Jacob Trouba. It was a classic case of Kreider being in the right place at the right time after doing some hard work on the puck behind the net. His popping one in early in the preseason is exactly what every one of the Garden Faithful wanted to see.
After Kreider put the Rangers up 2-0, the Blueshirts, Sykora took a penalty that led to a prime scoring chance for a group of shorthanded Rangers. The Islanders struggled to establish possession after gaining the Rangers' zone and Mika Zibanejad punished their sloppiness by breaking up the play and sending the puck out of the zone and down the ice. After hunting down the loose puck and checking the clock, Brennan Othmann sauced a pass over to a flying K’Andre Miller who buried his chance with just four seconds left in the first chapter of the game. And, just like that, it was 3-0 Rangers and a two-point period for Othmann.
Othmann with two assists so far, including this one to set up Miller for a short-handed goal pic.twitter.com/EHWgRCVZaK— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) September 26, 2022
The Islanders found a way to get the ice a little closer to level in the second, although Kaapo Kakko got a gasp out of the Garden by hitting a post in the early minutes of the period. The Rangers continued to look like a stronger, more prepared team as the period continued and eventually found the back of the net thanks to some outstanding puck-carrying by Kakko. Zac Jones picked up a puck from Kakko, who stood out with his play all night, and blasted a shot through a Kreider screen to end Varlamov’s name. Braden Schneider had the A2 on Jones’ goal, which put the Rangers up 4-0 a few minutes past the midpoint of the period.
Dylan Garand entered the game for Igor Shesterkin after Jones’ goal, to get his first taste of NHL hockey. Shesterkin made 14 saves on 31:31 of action.
Unfortunately for Garand, he allowed a shot on one of the first shots he faced in the game. Robin Salo got the Isles on the board inside of 4:00 with a shot through traffic to chop the Rangers’ lead down to three goals. That goal was the last major event of the second. After 40 minutes, the Rangers were up 4-1 with a 24-18 edge in shots on goal.
In the early stages of the third, the Rangers failed to convert on a big opportunity against Jakub Skarek who scrambled and likely prevented Kreider from scoring his second of the game. Shortly thereafter, Sykora took another trip to the box for slashing. On the PK, Gustav Rydahl gave himself a breakaway by picking the pocket of an Isles’ defender but was unable to cash in with his shot to Skarek’s blocker side.
The rest of the third was less eventful, with both teams finally settling in and making fewer costly mistakes. Unlike many preseason tilts between these rivals, there wasn’t much blood spilled in this one. There were no fighting majors and only a few shoving matches and heated words exchanged. Nonetheless, it was a result that head coach Gerard Gallant and the Rangers should feel confident about.
A 4-1 win at the Garden with some young players and some key veterans contributing. It was just the kind of preseason opener you’d hope to see from this team after the run it had last season.