So Alexis Lafreniere drilled the winner of the overtime game home and Igor Shesterkin recorded one important parade after another.
Man, did the Rangers need this one? Man, the Rangers earned this game 3-2 on Thursday against the Sabers in Buffalo, to end their four-game defeat and return to the garden for the first of two games on Saturday against the Penguins 2-4-1 ?
That it was the combination of Lafreniere and Shesterkin at the top of the charts maybe made this a bit cuter, though the club also got prime-time appearances from Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and a supporting actress who did it never let go of let go and never let go of the task.
Of course, the corks were mostly popped for Lafreniere, who went through six games and another 62:47 on his seventh before scooping both his first NHL goal and his first NHL point recorded by defeating Linus Ullmark with a left snap from a skillful two-on-one feed from Colin Blackwell.
That closed the night for the first Ping Pong Ball Kid, which Ullmark had previously turned down on several great opportunities, including one on the left doorstep in the first minute of the third half which saw the Blueshirts lead 2-1. Lafreniere had four shots in five attempts at 3:00 p.m. doing convincing work, mostly on a converted 1A line with Zibanejad and Buchnevich.
« I had a lot of good chances and I would just go ahead and it would be safe, » said Lafreniere while wearing the Broadway chapeau that appeared to be older than the 19-year-old. « I went on, continued crunching, and a nice pass from Blackie on an open net.
» Sure is [a weight off my shoulders]. I saw the puck go in and all the boys jump on the ice. It was a very special moment. “
Lafreniere may have been held off the board in his first six games, but he was engaged and on the puck as he moved from line to line as one of thousands of lines. His work ethic and dedication were undeniable. Such was his popularity among his teammates.
And of course his skills. It was clearly just a matter of time for the Saint-Eustache boy, and on January 28, 2021, it was 2:47 am overtime in Buffalo.
« Of course everyone is talking about his world-class talent, but this guy is a crazy boy, he really is, « said David Quinn. « I don’t care if he’s first or 271st choice, he’s a convex kid, a kid you want to be with.
» He had a lot of fun with the fact that he’s a snakebite He should probably have scored four goals tonight, but for him to score his first goal at this moment, in this situation and under these circumstances, I couldn’t be happier for him. His game came, he played better every night and better so it’s just great to see. «
The Rangers played with passion and dedication to owning this game for 60 minutes anywhere but the scoreboard. They were quick on the puck, controlling play for shifts at a time below the hash marks, and paying attention to their work without the puck in both the neutral and defensive zones. They had a 24-9 lead on shots in two periods, which completely reflected the game.
But after the Sabers took a 1-0 lead in the first game, they did it. And after the Sabers took a 2-1 lead, they linked it again with a power play at 4:47. In the last four games, the Rangers have taken a two-goal lead and a six-goal lead. They stood firm in this after Buffalo linked it with Shesterkin’s work, a big reason.
Indeed, the 25 year old Russian, who had been pretty average on his first three starts, set the tone and saved Victor Olofsson just two minutes into the competition. That was vital for both a goalkeeper and a team with shaky confidence.
« I tried my best and it was a rescue I had to do for the team, » Shesterkin said via a translator. « The team played very hard and as a goalkeeper I wanted to support the team and do a great job on the net. »
The support flowed from the nets through the defense to the front and back again. But the night was reserved for Lafreniere’s coming-out party. He waited seven games after waiting another three months for drafting. The pandemic denied him the opportunity to take the stage in Montreal as the first overall winner.
« If someone is equipped … » said Quinn. “He never let anything bother or rattle him. It only speaks for his mental hardness and endurance as a person.
« Of course he has a lot of talent, but there is so much more behind it. He has these qualities and if someone can deal with these circumstances, he is. »
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