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Recap: Rangers Start 2023 with a 5-3 Win

Six Rangers had multi-point efforts, including Adam Fox, who scored career point number 200.

New York Rangers v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

After a tough luck loss to the Lightning to close out 2022, the Rangers opened the new year with a matchup against Florida’s other team, the Panthers.

If I told you the Rangers opened the scoring with a Mika Zibanejad powerplay goal that was assisted by Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox, you might have an image in your head of what that would look like. A shifty move by Fox before dishing to Panarin, who threads the needle find Zibanejad, who hammers home the one-timer from the circle. Not this time. This time Panarin hit Zibanejad, who drove to the net and guided a bouncing puck through the pads of Sergei Bobrovsky. Maybe the new year will come with new puck luck?

Florida had an underwhelming first period, but came out and took control of the pace of play and created quite a few scoring chances. But Jaroslav Halak was on top of his game and made some quality saves, showing flashes of his past excellence. After the teams traded a couple of fruitless powerplays, Zibanejad struck again, finishing off a pretty passing sequence with Braden Schneider and Kaapo Kakko.

But Florida finally found an answer to Halak, when Nick Cousins hooked with up Eric Staal and Josh Mahura to put the Cats on the board on a shot that hit the post before the net. Remember when Eric Staal was a Ranger? Those were some…times.

Undeterred, Chris Kreider put the Rangers back up 3-1 when he finished off a pass from Kakko in the slot. Fox notched the secondary assist to give him point number 200 in his career. I have been a big fan of the Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko combination all season, and puck movement like this reinforces that.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, Ben Harpur took a minor for boarding Eric Staal, giving the Panthers their third powerplay of the period. They finally capitalized in the form of a Sam Bennett goal, making the score 3-2 going into the third.

The back and forth nature of the game continued into the third. Vincent Trocheck scored a powerplay goal for the Rangers after making an excellent defensive play, but Eric Staal wired a wrister off the crossbar and in on the very next shift to keep the game at 4-3. A whole eight minutes would pass before Panarin tallied goal number five for the Rangers. That goal would stand as the last of the game, giving the Rangers a 5-3 victory.

On the whole, the Rangers were outplayed five-on-five. But between their special teams, the strong play of Jaroslav Halak, and the weak play of Sergei Bobrovsky, the Rangers got what they needed to win. Kakko moved the puck really well, and Vitaly Kratvsov looked more confident and engaged, even if he didn’t earn a point. Alexis Lafrenière drew back into the line up, but only got 11:48 of ice time and was somewhat invisible. A mixed back, but a win is a win.

The Rangers will look to stay undefeated in 2023 against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.