After Thursday night’s embarrassing no-show loss to the Islanders at the Garden in the season opener for both teams, Rangers coach David Quinn made a slew of changes for Saturday’s do-over.
And every one of them seemed to work as the Rangers reversed Thursday’s result by battering the Islanders, 5-0.
"I was 100% sure we weren’t gonna be as bad as we were the other night, that’s for sure,’’ a much happier Quinn said. "I’ve got to give a bunch of our leaders a ton of credit. Jacob Trouba stood tall tonight with one of his best games as a Ranger, but the stuff he did between the last game and tonight went a long way and put us in the right mindset.
"Obviously, nobody was happy with what happened the other night [a 4-0 loss Thursday]. It was an embarrassing performance. But it’s all about how you respond to that.’’
Perhaps the most impactful change Quinn made was his starting goaltender. Igor Shesterkin got the assignment on opening night, but Alexandar Georgiev had practically owned the Islanders. Entering Saturday’s game, he had these stats against them: a 5-2 record, a .934 save percentage and a 2.09 goals-against average. And that trend continued.
Georgiev was sharp in making 23 saves to earn his fifth career shutout and second against the Islanders.
Georgiev hadn’t played a game since March 11, which was the Rangers’ last game before the NHL shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A lot of work has been done over the last 10 months, a lot of gym, a lot of staying sharp,’’ Georgiev said when asked about his long layoff. "I felt like coming into camp, my game was pretty good. I guess I kind of brought the same game as I came into camp with.’’
Pavel Buchnevich — whom Quinn gushed about during training camp — had two goals and an assist. Artemi Panarin had two goals and Kaapo Kakko also scored.
Working against Islanders rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who was making his NHL debut, Buchnevich gave the Rangers a quick lead, finishing a two-on-one pass from Mika Zibanejad at 2:12.
It was a complete reversal of Thursday, when the Islanders scored early in the game and then dominated.
This time it was the Rangers who were in control throughout. Panarin scored on a breakaway to make it 2-0 at 13:46, Buchnevich and Kakko scored in the second period, and Panarin finished things with a power-play goal at 15:56 of the third.
"First game we might have gotten a little deflated by the early power-play goal [against], bad bounce. We just weren’t able to recover,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said. "And you know, we were able to get the first one here, a nice goal by Buchie, and we just kind of rolled after that.’’
Quinn made several changes, and starting Georgiev wasn’t the most radical one. That would be the decision to scratch defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who took two penalties in the third period Thursday that Quinn apparently couldn’t tolerate.
Quinn banished DeAngelo from practice Friday, assigning him to work with the taxi squad rather than the main roster. He said he spoke at length to DeAngelo, and before the game Saturday, he promised that he will "be back in the lineup soon.’’
It may not be the next game, though, because Brendan Smith, who took DeAngelo’s spot in the lineup, played well. Smith even got a pretty assist when he intercepted Scott Mayfield’s pass and whipped a home run breakout pass to Panarin, who went top shelf on Sorokin to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead at 13:46 of the first period.