David Quinn had a hunch, so the rookie Rangers coach decided to try something different.
Putting the lefthanded-shooting Pavel Buchnevich on the left wing for the first time in his life was worth a shot, Quinn thought. After all, the Rangers were 0-3. What did he have to lose?
Well, as it turned out, the Rangers earned their first victory of the season Thursday, rallying from a goal down late in the third period to beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime, 3-2, at Madison Square Garden. Buchnevich set up Brendan Smith’s tying goal with 2:39 left in regulation.
But that wasn’t enough to convince Quinn to stick with Buchnevich on the left side. When the Rangers face the Edmonton Oilers in a Garden matinee Saturday (faceoff at 1 p.m.), Buchnevich will be back at right wing, albeit with a different center, rookie Brett Howden. Mats Zuccarello, usually a right wing, will be on their left.
“I’m not playing left wing anymore,’’ Buchnevich said after practice Friday. “It’s enough. It doesn’t work.’’
On Thursday, Buchnevich played left wing with his usual centerman, Mika Zibanejad, and right wing Jesper Fast. But he had never played the left side before and his muscle memory kept pulling him to the right side against the Sharks. He especially had trouble in his own end of the ice.
“It’s just hard in the defensive zone,’’ he said. “I don’t know what to do. It’s so hard to make the play on that side.’’
Quinn said the experiment was just OK.
“Obviously, he makes a great play for the last goal, but he’s a guy with a bunch of talent — a lot of talent — and we’re trying to get it all out of him,’’ he said. “And it might be a little bit of a process.’’
Is it a process worth revisiting at another time, or not really?
“Eh, I’m going back and forth, to be honest with ya,’’ he said with a chuckle. “Again, it’s just a hunch I had, and I was just trying to see if we could get him going with a right-shot center [Zibanejad].’’
Now Quinn will try to get Buchnevich going with the red-hot Howden, with whom Quinn said every Rangers forward would want to take a turn. While sitting in the locker room next to Zibanejad, his longtime linemate, Buchnevich didn’t want to say he was eager to play with Howden, though.
For his part, Zibanejad said he’d like to play with Howden, too.
“On the right wing?’’ Buchnevich asked.
“I’d play defense with him,’’ Zibanejad said.
Notes & quotes: Quinn said D Kevin Shattenkirk will be back in the lineup after sitting out against the Sharks. He wouldn’t say who is coming out.