The video tribute for former Ranger Derick Brassard came at 6:24 of the first period — a short highlight reel of playoff goals — and the Ottawa forward, who returned to the Garden for the first time last night, raised a hand to acknowledge the applause.
“That was a nice ovation,’’ said Brassard, who finished with no shots on goal in 14:27 and won seven of 17 faceoffs. “I’m really thankful for the fans here and for appreciating my work for the last four years.”
Earlier in the day, Brassard, 29, had told reporters: “Just can’t wait for this day to be over. The Rangers were really good to me and I owe a lot to the coaching staff, organization and all the teammates that I had here. They made me a better player and I’m always going to be grateful for everything they’ve done.”
Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein has seen both sides of Brassard, who was here a little more than three years (254 regular-season games). He had 69 goals and 174 points, plus 44 points in 59 playoff games, before being traded last summer. “I used to see him a lot when he was with Columbus and I was in Nashville. Always fun battling against him,” Klein said Sunday. “Obviously was a great teammate. Maybe we’ll have a few laughs after the game, but all business during.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said: “Everybody liked Derick. He was a guy who played extremely well for us, was extremely committed to the group, but hockey’s a business, and by making that move, we were able to sign three players. In the cap era, sometimes you’re forced to make decisions that are really hard, especially when it’s someone who’s performing.”
After an MRI last Monday that ruled out any structural issues, Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms) continued to do off-ice core work that will continue for at least another week . . . After suffering a broken left fibula last week, Mika Zibanejad will remain in a boot for several weeks . . . Mats Zuccarello, Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller each had five shots for the Rangers, who host Carolina on Tuesday night . . . Oscar Lindberg and Adam Clendening were healthy scratches.