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Brady Skjei's finish makes up for rough start for Rangers

Brady Skjei is thrilled after his goal in

Brady Skjei is thrilled after his goal in overtime gave the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Sharks. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Before scoring in overtime, Brady Skjei started Thursday night’s game by getting torched by San Jose’s Marcus Sorensen on the first goal of the game, at 4:31 of the first period. Sorensen made Skjei look foolish, dipsying past him one way, then doodling past him another way before ripping a shot past Henrik Lundqvist.

“Obviously, I shouldn’t be reaching like that, but the guy obviously made a pretty good play, for sure,’’ Skjei said of Sorensen. “I probably should turn around and skate backwards there with him; I thought I could skate forward and poke the puck, but he made a great play.’’

But Skjei made up for his rough beginning with the game-winner  37 seconds into overtime.

“I was trying to get it to Zuc [Mats Zuccarello]'s hands,’’ Skjei said of the winning goal. “But the way it worked out, I was moving a little too far in front of him, so I had to hang on to it, and I knew I had to shoot by the end, so I tried to pick my corner, and I hit it.’’

Skjei called the Rangers’ first victory of the season “huge.’’

“We feel like we could have one or two [wins], but to finally get one, it’s a big weight off the shoulders,’’ he said. “And it’s huge that I feel like I got one back there at the end for us.’’

Pionk: I've simply got to play better

So what did the Rangers tell Neal Pionk when they informed him he would be scratched from the lineup Thursday night?

“I’ve simply got to play better,’’ Pionk said at the morning skate Thursday. “If I want to be playing the minutes that they’re giving me, we’ve got to win some games. So when the team starts 0-3, something’s got to change, and that’s what they thought was best.’’

Pionk, fellow defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and forward Cody McLeod were the scratches as the Rangers returned to a 12-forward, six-defenseman lineup, and coach David Quinn got defenseman Freddie Claesson into his first game of the season.

Quinn said Pionk “wasn’t great’’ in the 8-5 loss to Carolina on Sunday, and because the coach wanted to get Claesson into a game, someone had to sit. With only 31 NHL games on his resume, Pionk, 23, hardly was untouchable.

“There’s going to be times where a defenseman’s not going to play, and he’s been playing pretty well,’’ Quinn said. “That’s just going to happen. We’re fortunate we think we have eight defensemen that can play. So every now and then, a guy’s going to go in because we want to get him in there, and a guy who hasn’t been playing poorly is going to come out.’’

Quinn said Shattenkirk, who has no points and a minus-4 defensive rating in his three games, will return to the lineup Saturday when the Rangers face Edmonton at Madison Square Garden.

Beleskey skates with team

Injured F Matt Beleskey (separated shoulder) took part in the morning skate. It was the first time, he said, that he skated with the team rather than by himself. “I’m still not shooting 100 percent, definitely no contact,’’ he said. “Just working my way into it. I got into some drills, but it felt good to get out there.’’

New York Sports