The difference between where he came from and where he is now couldn’t have been more apparent in the few days Brendan Lemieux has spent with the Rangers.
In Winnipeg, the 22-year-old forward was used to playing a little bit and winning a lot; in New York, things have flipped completely around.
Lemieux scored his first goal as a Ranger in the closing minutes of Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden, but in his two games with his new team, all the 6-1, 210-pound winger has experienced is two good efforts against a couple of playoff teams, two losses and one point.
For Lemieux, whose father, Claude Lemieux, won four Stanley Cup rings in a 19-year NHL career, that’s not quite enough.
“Meaningless,’’ he said when asked how it was to score his first goal in a Rangers uniform. “It doesn’t mean anything, you know? It’s obviously cool to get one, but it’s about winning hockey games. It’s not about individual anything.’’
Lemieux’s 10th goal cut the Rangers’ deficit to 3-2 with 2:32 left in regulation. It gave the Rangers a chance against the Canadiens, but Joel Armia scored into an empty net with 36.7 seconds left to complete a hat trick and finish the Rangers.
“Too little, too late there,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said of Lemieux’s goal. “If we get [it] earlier, maybe we were going to be able to ride the momentum.’’
Lemieux has made quite an impression in his first two games with the team. An agitating forward like his father, he has played with a ton of energy for the Rangers, driving to the net, annoying opponents and lifting his teammates.
He has played nearly double the amount of time he did for Winnipeg (an average of 13:56, compared to an average of 7:25 for the Jets), has gotten a roughing penalty in each game and was assessed a 10-minute misconduct after the empty-net goal. He certainly has made his presence felt.
“He works hard and he’s got good stick skills — there’s a lot there,’’ Quinn said. “I’m certainly glad we traded for him.’’
Before the game, Quinn was asked what he had noticed about Lemieux in the short time he had been around.
“I think what you see on the ice is also what you see off the ice,’’ Quinn said. “He’s energetic, he’s got a presence about him, he’s not quiet. And that’s what you want. This is a game of passion, and emotion, and enthusiasm, and in the short time he’s been here, he’s given us all that on and off the ice.’’
After the game, as a glum locker room emptied, Lemieux lingered, sitting next to Mika Zibanejad, engaged in what appeared to be a deep, serious discussion. What they were talking about was unknown, but it probably wasn’t about places to eat after the game.