Artemi Panarin, the electric winger who made his preseason debut for the Rangers Wednesday night, scored a power play goal, but was forced to leave the game against the Devils at Madison Square Garden in the second period with what the team said was “a mild groin strain.’’
“Just a mild groin strain, more precautionary,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said of Panarin after the Rangers’ 4-3 loss. “He should be fine.’’
Panarin, the former Columbus Blue Jackets star who signed a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the Rangers in July, scored the first goal for the Rangers on a power play at 7:33 of the second period. He blasted home a one-timer from the top of the left wing circle off a pass from Jacob Trouba to get the Rangers on the board after the Devils had scored the first two goals of the game. But he left the game midway through the period. Chris Kreider, who had been playing left wing on the second line, moved up to take Panarin’s spot on the first line, with Mika Zibanejad and rookie Kaapo Kakko.
Before he left, Panarin was part of a Rangers power play that seemed dominant, and despite scoring only one goal in four attempts, the extra man unit – with Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Kakko and Trouba making up the first group – generated many chances and shots on goal. Overall, the Rangers outshot the Devils 42-24 and the power play was responsible for much of that.
“I was a little shocked, to be honest with you,’’ Zibanejad said of the power play’s performance. “First game with that group – we had one practice (Tuesday) and a little bit this morning, but I thought we moved the puck well.
“The biggest thing was the second pucks, I think, after the shot - the rebounds, the loose pucks that we won back – we were able to keep the momentum, and we didn’t have to start over again from behind our net,’’ he said. “I think that was a big thing. The power play was clicking.’’
Zibanejad had a game-high eight shots on goal. Kakko and Kreider had four shots each, and Trouba and Panarin each had three. On one power play, the Rangers hit the post three times.
“Through [Devils goaltender Cory] Schneider’s legs, off the post and out,’’ Kreider recalled of that particular sequence. “Then over to Kaapo, post-and-out, Trouba walks into a one-timer, post-and-out.
“I was going like this when I put it through his legs,’’ Kreider said, raising his arms in the universal hockey goal celebration.
Notes & quotes: Nico Hischier scored on a deflection 37 seconds into the game for the Devils, and Mikhail Maltsev scored on dazzling move with four seconds left in the first period. Nikita Gusev and Brett Seney scored the other Devils goals. Greg McKegg and Lias Andersson had the other Rangers goals… Kakko, 2018 first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov, defenseman Adam Fox and goaltender Igor Shesterkin were among those who made their preseason debuts for the Rangers. The team is off Thursday and plays the Devils in Newark on Friday.