Ryan Strome quietly has become a significant player for a Rangers team that is sputtering toward the finish line of a second straight season out of the playoffs.
Strome, 25, scored his 17th goal Friday night as the Rangers beat the Blues, 4-2, at the Garden. It was his fourth goal in five games and 16th in 58 games for the Rangers after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 16 in a straight swap for the underachieving Ryan Spooner. He tied his career high for goals in a season set in 2014-15, his first full stint in the NHL with the Islanders.
Strome’s unassisted goal at 2:22 of the second period got the Rangers on the board after the Blues took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Pavel Buchnevich scored 1:20 later before Jimmy Vesey broke the tie at 5:47 of the third period and Chris Kreider scored an empty-netter with 7.3 seconds to go. Alexandar Georgiev made 44 saves.
Strome, who didn’t live up to the expectations put on him after being chosen fifth overall by the Islanders in the 2011 draft, has recast himself with the Rangers as a versatile top-nine forward who can take faceoffs, play a two-way game and be part of the power play and the penalty kill.
“The draft was so long ago — I’m on my third team now — so much has changed,’’ he said Friday when asked about the weight of his draft position. “I’ve played over 400 [NHL] games now, so it’s just a matter of finding the consistency, and I think I’ve been able to do that here. I think I’ve been able to enter the game, and whether I produce [goals] or not, I think I’ve found a way to impact the game a little bit.’’
He has helped to groom 20-year-old Lias Andersson, who, like Strome, was a high draft pick (No. 7 overall in 2017) and hasn’t exactly exploded on to the NHL scene. Strome has played on Andersson’s line for the past five games and spends a lot of time talking to him.
“You know, a guy like him, a lot of people are saying he was drafted high, blah, blah, blah,’’ Strome said. “But I mean, he’s still a pretty young kid, and it takes time for people to develop into what they’re going to be. I think he’s got a lot of intangibles that you look for in a young guy. He works really hard, he’s really committed. I think the offensive side of his game will come. And, for me, I’ve been through so many ups and downs myself, I can relate a little bit.’’
Notes & quotes: Brendan Smith was named the Rangers’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who has displayed the greatest “perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey’’ in the league. Smith worked to make it back to the NHL after being banished to the minor leagues last season and has played defense and left wing this season . . . Mika Zibanejad’s first-period goal was overturned after a challenge for goaltender interference was upheld on video review. Smith’s skate clipped St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington’s skate . . . Kreider (hip/back, three games missed), D Marc Staal (lower body injury, two games missed) and F Boo Nieves (healthy scratch last game) returned to the lineup. Ds Freddie Claesson and John Gilmour and F Connor Brickley were scratched . . . Rookie Brett Howden turned 21 Friday.