Rangers backup goalie Antti Raanta nearly recorded a shutout Sunday night in his first career appearance against the Lightning — Steven Stamkos deflected a shot past him at 16:36 of the third period in the Blueshirts’ 6-1 win — but Raanta was pleased with the result.
“Our guys were lighting it up today,” said Raanta, who made 31 saves. “[Tampa Bay’s] d-men like to shoot the puck, but I always had sight of it. If there was a rebound or something, our guys were helping me. They were blocking shots and making sacrifices. That’s what we need if we’re going to win.”
Coach Alain Vigneault said he “wasn’t worried at all about Antti [against the potent Lightning]. The way he’s played for us in the past, how hard he’s working during practices and the extra work he’s doing with [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire].”
Said Ryan McDonagh: “He was big, no question about it. He made some key saves, especially in the second. Hats off to him . . . He’s been great ever since he joined the team.”
With five games in eight days beginning Tuesday night and eight games in 15 days, Raanta is sure to get more chances in November.
Center of attention
As Tampa Bay’s defense pinched along the boards, the Rangers used the center of the ice and succeeded. “We found the middle a little bit more and just kind of chipped it over their heads, got into footraces and that allowed us to find some odd-man looks,” said McDonagh, whose assist on Michael Grabner’s second goal was his eighth of the season. “We were able to finish, and that’s a good sign.” . . . Before Grabner, the last Ranger to score a hat trick was Mats Zuccarello against Toronto on Oct. 30, 2015.
Kreider likely to play Tuesday night
It appears that Chris Kreider, who missed his fourth straight game Sunday night after developing neck spasms, will be ready to return Tuesday night when the Rangers face the St. Louis Blues.
Kreider, who was off to a hot start with three goals and four assists in the first five games before his injury, skated with the team at Madison Square Garden on Sunday morning.
“He looked fine out there,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’m confident he’ll be good to go on Tuesday.” The plan is for Kreider to participate in a full practice Monday.
Kreider agreed to a four-year contract worth $4.625 million annually in July.
Clendening sits again
Defenseman Adam Clendening was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game as Vigneault stuck with the same six defensemen, although he dropped Kevin Klein to the third pair, on the right side of Brady Skjei. Klein missed the first three games of the season because of a back sprain.
Klein blocked four shots and had three hits and three shots on goal against Carolina on Friday night but is a minus-2 and has no points in six games.
“Any time you have an injury,” Vigneault said, “you’ve got to do a little more to find your rhythm. For the most part, he’s been all right. I’d like him to move the puck a little bit quicker, have a little more jump to that first step and that first pass. But he’s doing what we expect from him.”
With five games in eight nights — four against Western Conference teams and a back-to-back (in Boston on Saturday before hosting Winnipeg) — both Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta “are going to play this week,” Vigneault said.