PHILADELPHIA — It was only Thanksgiving week, but Matt Puempel described it as “early Christmas . . . that’s the best way to put it.”
Puempel, 23, who was waived by the Ottawa Senators and claimed by the Rangers on Monday, used his speed and offensive instincts to score Friday on a rush in his first period as a Blueshirt.
Jimmy Vesey came down the right side and led Puempel, charging down the middle ahead of a Flyers defenseman and he beat Steve Mason at 14:50 to push the Rangers’ lead to 2-0. Josh Jooris, the center on that line received the secondary assist in what was an eventual 3-2 win for the Rangers.
“Jimmy threw it over and I knew I kind of had a step on him,” said Puempel, who was selected 24th overall in the entry draft in 2011. “I just tried to get it off quick.”
It was the fifth goal in 53 NHL games for Puempel, who scored 30 goals or more three times in the juniors and the AHL.
On Friday, Puempel had two shots, one miss and one hit in 12:32, “probably the most I’ve ever played in a game,” he said, and noticed an immediate difference between the approach between the Senators and Rangers.
“You play better when you play more, and I’m still getting to learn the systems here,” he said. “They let you play the game, you can play to your strength. They know there’s going to mistakes, they’re not barking at you every time you come off the ice. I’ve never played with any of these guys before, but that’s part of the transition, part of the challenge. ”
“Good for the kid,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who put Puempel into the lineup after just one practice and one morning skate. “It was his second or third shift and he was able to find the back of the net, it’s got to help his confidence.”