There’s no way to know now if Monday’s come-from-behind, 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues was a turning point for the Rangers. That remains to be seen.
But, given where they were before the win — 1-4-1 in their last six games, including regulation losses to last-place Anaheim and lowly Chicago, plus an overtime loss to lowly Ottawa — it could turn out to be one, if the Rangers can build on it.
On Tuesday the Rangers flew west to kick off a two-game road trip to Vegas and Colorado. If they lose both games, then Monday’s win won’t be much of a turning point. But if they can carry momentum from their third period comeback against the Blues onto the trip, and get points off the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights and/or the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche, well, then Monday’s game might just prove to be the start of something.
In Saturday’s loss to Chicago, forward Chris Kreider bemoaned the fact that by his count, the Rangers had hit the goalpost seven times in the game. Hitting goalposts has been a common thing for the Rangers this season, and especially during their most recent skid. And that didn’t stop Monday. Kaapo Kakko, whose pointless streak reached seven games, hit the post twice Monday, including on a second period, shorthanded breakaway where he skated around Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, hit the brakes behind the goal line, and tried to bring the puck back across the goal line and stuff it inside the right goalpost. The puck brushed the post on the way back across the goal line, and bounced away from his stick.
But the Rangers got some lucky breaks in the game for the first time in what seemed like a long time. K’Andre Miller took a 55-foot wrist shot that dipped below Binnington’s glove and went in for his first goal of the season. That tied the score at 4 at 4:28 of the third period. Then, Ivan Barbashev simply lost the puck in the neutral zone, which led to Kreider’s shorthanded breakaway goal that made it 6-4 with 5:56 remaining.
Finally getting a break or two is something that could turn things around for the Rangers, Miller said.
“Totally, yeah,’’ he said. “Bounces are a huge part of the game. I know me and (defense partner Jacob Trouba) obviously haven't had the best bounces this year, but I think we’re just staying with it and knowing that those bounces are gonna come (around).’’
Coach Gerard Gallant, who has been tinkering with the lines of late, may have found something in moving up his Kid Line wingers, Alexis Lafrenière and Kakko, to the first line, flanking No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad. That line was on for Miller’s tying goal (with Lafrenière getting the lone assist) and then Lafrenière scored the winner when he tipped in Zibanejad’s long shot at 8:16 of the third.
Gallant will presumably stay with that line Wednesday against Vegas, and whether he keeps it together long enough to see if it can catch fire and start producing some even-strength goals will be interesting to see. The Rangers will hope to have center Filip Chytil, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, on the trip and available to play. Chytil had just been promoted to the second line, with Artemi Panarin, before he was forced to sit out Saturday’s game against Chicago.