Artemi Panarin came into this season with something to prove and he’s taken that challenge and run with it.
Panarin scored the hat trick and had a four point night as he led the Rangers to a wild, 6-5 win over the San Jose Sharks at the Garden last night. It was the fifth career hat trick for the “Bread Man” and his third with the Rangers.
Jonathan Quick made 23 saves and is now 7-0-1 this season while he beat the Sharks for the 20th time in his career. Former New Jersey Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 30 of 36 shots.
The Rangers (18-4-1) have won three in a row for the fourth time this season and have won 6 of their last 7 and 16 of their last 19 games that includes one shootout loss.
Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist, Vincent Trocheck, Jacob Trouba and Jonny Brodzinski each had two assists. Brodzinski was flipped with Blake Wheeler and moved up the top line with Zibanejad and Kreider, but the night belonged to Panarin and the Rangers would need every bit of his contribution.
Panarin was criticized for his poor performance in last season’s disappointing, first round loss in seven games to the Devils. Panarin had two assists and no goals and was invisible at time during the series.
This season, Panarin has had an incredible start that has placed him in the early conversations for the Hart Trophy. The three time All Star has scored 15 goals with 20 assists for 35 points this season in 23 games.
Additionally, Panarin extended his home point scoring streak to start the season to 10 games, placing him tied for second in franchise history (Mike Rogers 15 games in 1983-84, Wayne Gretzky 10 games in 1996-97), and it was the 19th time in the 32-year old’s career that he had a four point game.
“He’s always been a really good player, an elite player but I think you appreciate him more when you watch him, day in and day out,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “You watch the plays that he makes and the things that he does, you appreciate him more.”
The Sharks (6-17-2) didn’t play like a team that had the worst record in the league after they opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game.
Former Ranger Anthony Duclair got behind the Rangers’ defense and skated in on a breakway. Duclair deked back hand and got Quick out of position where he was able to put it in an open net for his sixth goal of the season at 3:50 of the first period.
Less than five minutes later, the Rangers were on a second consecutive power play when they tied the game.
Panarin had the puck on the left wing side and skated to the slot where he fired it through a maze of bodies to beat Blackwood to tie the game at one at 8:44 of the first period. It was Panarin’s 13th goal of the season and third on the power play. Zibanejad and Adam Fox had the assists. Zibanejad extended his point scoring streak to seven straight games.
San Jose retook the lead on a goal by former Ranger Ryan Carpenter. It appeared K’Andre Miller screened Quick and Carpenter took advantage from the slot.
Panarin’s second goal of the game and 14th of the season tied the game at two. Vincent Trocheck tried a wrap around and Panarin was open in front to pounce on the rebound at 12:55.
Mika Zibanejad beat Blackwood over the left shoulder off a nice feed from Chris Kreider for a 3-2 lead at 16:42. Brodzinski (who was moved to the top line with Blake Wheeler going to the third line) sent the puck behind the net to Kreider who put it out in front where Zibanejad snapped it in for his sixth goal of the season.
The teams traded goals in the second period as the Rangers skated off with a one goal lead.
First, the Sharks tied the game with a PP goal at 9:14. Jacob McDonald fired a shot that went off the post and then off of Quick’s skate and into the net.
The goal came moments after Nick Bonino nearly scored a shorthanded goal. K’Andre Miller lofted the puck into the offensive zone where Bonino corralled it and tried to beat Blackwood but he was denied.
Lafreniere was awarded a penalty shot at 10:16 of the second period but Blackwood made the save. Lafreniere faked going to his patented back hand and went to the fore hand but Blackwood wouldn’t bite and made the save to keep the game tied.
Trouba started the play that led to go ahead goal. The Ranger captain lifted the puck out of the Ranger zone to Bonino, who played it in the neutral zone. A streaking Cuylie took the pass from Bonino and beat Blackwood for his 4th goal and a 4-3 lead with less than four minutes left in the second period.
The Rangers padded the lead in the third period as Panarin completed the hat trick at 4:41 to make it a 5-3 game.
Miller didn’t get an assist on the play but, as the Sharks were trying to clear the puck, the 6’5” defenseman used his reach to poke the puck and keep it in the offensive zone. Brodzinski took the loose puck and skated in on Blackwood, who made the intial save. Trocheck tried burying the rebound but was stopped, before Panarin completed the flurry with his third goal of the game at 4:41.
“He [Panarin] leaves you speechless sometimes. I couldn’t be happier to have him on our team,” Zibanejad said.
The Rangers have been intense around the net lately and are cashing in on those opportunities. Jimmy Vesey scored a game winning goal when he was able to score by swatting the puck in from in front to beat Detroit last week and Ryan Lindgren’s game winning goal in Nashville on Saturday caromed off the skate of a Predators’ defender with Trocheck in front. “That’s the prime real estate but often times it comes with a price of getting there and paying that price to find those areas,” Laviolette said.
Miller got on the scoreboard with his third goal in the last five games and 4th of the season at 13:04 that gave the Rangers, what seemed like a comfortable 6-3 lead. However, San Jose did not quit.
With former Rangers coach David Quinn behind the Sharks’ bench, San Jose scored twice in a 1:12 span to cut the lead to one.
Goals by Fabian Zetterlund at 14:38 and Alexander Barbanov at 15:50 made it a perilously close 6-5 game, but the Rangers were able to navigate the final 4:10 o hold on for the victory.
“I really liked the third period and the way we played it. You’re thinking 6-3 it’s over, but it wasn’t over. We could’ve been the little bit better there at the end,” said Laviolette.
The line changes seemed to click so it will be worth watching how Laviolette plays it for the next game in Ottawa on Tuesday. For one night, Brodzinski was comfortable with his new linemates. “We used our speed well. I think me and Kreids kinda feed off each other pretty well on the wings kind of getting up and down the ice. I think we can create a lot more as soon as we get more chemistry and jell,” Brodzinski said.