CHICAGO – The Rangers made franchise history with their 17th win in 24 games – and the NHL should know about it.
Extending their winning streak to seven straight games, the Rangers scored five unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night at the United Center. The Rangers have now won 11 of their last 12 games, are one point behind the Capitals, leaders in the Metropolitan Division, and have the highest points percentage in the entire league at 0.771.
With a convincing 17-4-3 record, the Rangers are starting to find their identity.
“That’s what it feels like in the locker room,” said Mika Zibanejad, who collected two assists in the victory. “When we have our meetings and we talk about our game and all that, I think you can tell when you watch the game too, that we think by now you should know how we are playing. “
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Although they sometimes played a little too loose in the defensive zone at first, the Rangers found ways to block the lanes and eventually blocked 15 shots to limit their six consecutive opponents to two goals or less. Plus, they held Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to a combined shot on goal.
With the win, the Rangers also deprived Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury of securing his 500th NHL victory.
Artemi Panarin led the Rangers with a four-point effort, scoring two goals and two assists. But it was a top-down team effort, with five different players scoring goals and four different players recording two-point nights.
The Rangers special teams were flawless that night, with a 2-2 powerplay and shortage knocking out Chicago’s four powerplay. But it was the opportunity scoring in favor of the man that made the difference for Rangers, as Panarin scored the tying goal in the second and Chris Kreider gave the go-ahead five minutes after the third.
“It’s hot right now,” said head coach Gerard Gallant of the power play, which ranks eighth in the NHL with a 24.3 percentage point. “They did their job and the shorthanded did an amazing job as well. “
Led 2-1 early in the halfway point, the Rangers secured the game’s first power play after Blackhawks center Henrik Borgstrom was called up for the hook. Seizing the offensive zone and working it with clean passes, the Rangers evened the score on Panarin’s shot from the left circle at 3:19.
United Center fell silent later in the period, when Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba equalized Jujhar Khaira and knocked out the Chicago winger. There was a long stoppage of play as Khaira was treated on the ice and then taken on a stretcher.
“There was no intention to hurt the guy,” Gallant said. ” [Trouba] hit him right in the middle of the chest, then hit his head quite badly on the ice.
Kevin Rooney made it 4-2 later in the frame, before Panarin scored through an empty net to put the game out of reach. Barclay Goodrow then scored his fourth goal of the season for good measure at 18:41 of the third.
The Rangers may have stolen a few wins early in the season, but they’re earning each now. Even without the safety net of star goalie Igor Shesterkin, who is in the injured reserve with a lower-body injury, the Rangers are racking up points.
“We play the way we want and we have seen the result,” said Zibanejad. “At least we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every night. We’re playing well right now and we just have to keep it up. It’s obviously the trust in the group that we see that we can gain in different ways.