With their latest acquisition making his debut, the Rangers almost had a full roster for their Thursday night game against the Ottawa Senators, at least for a little while.
The Senators went on a powerplay early on an error by the refs, calling Jimmy Vesey for high-sticking our old pal Derick Brassard, when it was really the stick of Austin Watson that bopped the erstwhile Ranger’s face. It kind of worked out though, Mika Zibanejad created a turnover, allowing Adam Fox to spring Chris Kreider for a breakaway against Cam Talbot. He went to the backhand, and he scored his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. He’s now tied in a four-way tie for the league lead in shorties (with Horvat, Lafferty, and Reilly Smith, if you’re curious).
The short-handed goal rightfully is going to get the pop, but look at the key play from Mika Zibanejad in his own zone pic.twitter.com/TP8ovJXme0— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 3, 2023
Minutes later, Austin Watson hit his former teammate Tyler Motte high and hard, earning himself a five-minute charging major and a game misconduct. It was really just a gross hit, and Motte did not return to the game. I don’t know what evil spirit doesn’t want to see him in a Rangers jersey, but the poor guy cannot catch a break. It also left the Rangers bench short two players once again, as they still lack the cap space to dress a full roster. They failed to capitalize on the extended powerplay, so they went to the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers powerplay continued to lay goose eggs against Ottawa’s strong PK, coming up empty on another two minors. Perhaps emboldened by their shorthanded stand, the Senators struck for two quick goals. Shane Pinto scored the first, cramming it in from just outside the paint.
Pinto slams this one into the back of the net!#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/bnfT3G8RgT— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 3, 2023
Derick Brassard put Ottawa up 2-1 21 seconds later. It was his tenth of the year in his 1000th NHL game. It was nice to see him notch that goal at the Garden after he was such a big part of the previous core.
Brass lights the lamp in game no. 1000! #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/5n8ceb8Aq4— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 3, 2023
But this Rangers team is built to out-score their defensive issues, and they grabbed the lead right back. Artemi Panarin found Jacob Trouba driving to the net. Trouba attempted to go to the backhand and got a lucky bounce to break his nine-game goal drought and tie the game.
A couple minutes later, Zibanejad hit Vladimir Tarasenko with a stretch pass through center ice. Tarasenko got behind the defense and pulled a Forsberg to put the Rangers back on top, 3-2. He made it look easy.
Tarasenko pic.twitter.com/CCH0gqAH3C— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 3, 2023
Remember those defensive issues I mentioned earlier? Well, that was foreshadowing. Ottawa scored another pair of back-to-back goals early in the third. Brassard tallied the first. Jaroslav Halak played the puck behind the net and whip it around the boards, but the puck was intercepted. Brassard ended up with the puck low, patiently held it outside the crease, and fooled Halak with a half-spin and a backhand. Honestly, I’m still just glad for him. He looked so happy after that one!
1000 games of experience led to this goal, that is undeniable.#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/FavQeMJSnm— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) March 3, 2023
Claude Giroux notched the go-ahead goal. He tipped a half-slap shot from Travis Hamonic. Halak made the initial save, but Giroux cleaned up the rebound, putting the Senators up 4-3.
For a moment, it appeared that Brady Tkachuk extended the lead even further, but the Rangers challenged that Tkachuk was offsides and the goal was disallowed.
The Rangers offense went cold after that, generating very little and failing to draw any more powerplay attempts. With just under three minutes to go, the Rangers pulled their goalie, and immediately gave up an empty-net goal to Tim Stützle, clinching a 5-3 victory for Ottawa.
Well, the good news is the Rangers didn’t give up a powerplay goal for the first time in nine games, and Tarasenko both scored and actually put up good xG numbers with Zibanejad and Kreider. The powerplay didn’t score, but moved the puck as well as you’d expect, given the personnel. Hopefully Motte is healthy soon, because that was an ugly hit. Maybe the league will reverse course allow them an emergency call up if he misses time. Who’s to say?
The Rangers will have Friday off before taking on the league-leading Bruins in Boston Saturday afternoon.