The Rangers quite literally flipped the script.
After getting blown out in their season-opener two nights earlier against the Islanders, the Rangers turned around and gave it right back, putting together their own 5-0 shutout performance over Barry Trotz and company at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
The Rangers — coming off a 4-0 loss in which head coach David Quinn questioned their effort — finally showed up for the 2020-21 season. Even with their second-highest paid defenseman, Tony DeAngelo, in street clothes because of an undisciplined unsportsmanlike conduct penalty taken in the first game, the Rangers looked like the team that had the coaching staff gushing over their focus in training camp.
The effort was there. The smart passes were there. The Rangers were there.
Behind two goals each from Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin, the 1-1 Rangers got the boost they needed from their top line. Alexandar Georgiev recorded his fifth shutout of his career, tallying 23 saves in the win.
The Islanders received an early omen their night wasn’t going to be a good one when starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov took a puck to the throat in warmups and had to leave the ice, throwing Russian wunderkind Ilya Sorokin into his NHL debut without warning.
The Rangers piled on the shots early, jumping out to a 2-0 first-period lead. Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring, stealing the puck from Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson, he found Buchnevich on the 2-on-1 rush at 2:12.
The Islanders defense took a hit shortly after when Ryan Pulock absorbed a Jacob Trouba shot to the side of the head and immediately headed to the locker room. But Pulock returned at the start of the second period.
Brendan Smith then intercepted a pass and hit a streaking Panarin, who sniped Sorokin on the right side to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead, at 13:46, and effectively putting their three-goal first-period breakdown in Thursday’s loss behind them.
In the second period, the Islanders were hit with multiple penalties, including two on Mathew Barzal. After Scott Mayfield got tangled up with a linesman, Buchnevich scooped up the puck and ripped a hard-angled shot from the left dot to make it a 3-0 game early in the second.
The Phillip Di Giuseppe-Filip Chytil-Kaapo Kakko line then forced a turnover later in the period, with Kakko finishing it off on a one-timer at 15:24 of the second.
The Islanders played better in the third period, maintaining time in the Rangers zone and ringing two shots off the post in the final two minutes, but the Rangers dominated throughout.
After Ross Johnston was penalized for fighting Ryan Lindgren and Trouba, Panarin cleaned up the garbage on the power play to cap off the scoring.
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