Rangers grab first win of the season in dramatic fashion

The Rangers battled against one of the NHL’s elite teams on Thursday night, and although they were outplayed by the San Jose Sharks for long stretches of the game, they came out victorious 3-2 in overtime.  Brady Skjei scored 37 seconds into overtime and David Quinn was rewarded with his first career win as a head coach in the NHL.

The first period saw the Sharks carry play, to the tune of a 17-6 shots on goal advantage. But after giving up a highlight-reel shorthanded goal to Marcus Sorensen, the Blueshirts tied things up on an equally impressive tally by Brett Howden.

Though the early season has been a struggle for these (mostly) young Rangers, Howden has shown early signs of being a potential cornerstone for the franchise moving forward.  After some good work below the goal line, Mats Zuccarello ended up with an opportunity to shoot, but fanned on his attempt.  Howden got himself to the front of the net to pick up the loose change, and slotted the puck on his backhand (and through his own legs!) through both Brent Burns and goaltender Aaron Dell.

The second period brought more Sharks dominance and they capitalized on a Rangers mistake to take a 2-1 lead.  As Chris Kreider sped up the ice on a potential odd-man rush, Howden and Marc Staal went to the bench for a change.  Unfortunately, that change resulted in a 3-on-1 chance for the Sharks just seconds later, and Joonas Donskoi scored what will likely be one of his easiest goals of the year, burying Antti Suomela’s cross-ice feed.

Though the score wasn’t lopsided after two periods, nearly every other meaningful stat was:

  • Shots on goal (all situations): SJ 33, NYR 15
  • Shot attempts (5v5): 42-26
  • Scoring chances (5v5): 23-15
  • High Danger chances (5v5): 16-5

But all of this Sharks dominance ended up amounting to nothing.  Instead, it set the stage for a dramatic Rangers comeback, and the first feel-good moment at the Garden of this young season.  Though the team’s hard work didn’t result in much through the first 17 minutes of the third, the Rangers were firmly in the game. Finally, a brilliant backhand feed from Pavel Buchnevich found Brendan Smith in the slot, who hammered home a one-timer to tie the game with 2:39 remaining.

As the horn sounded at the end of the third period, the Garden faithful rose to their feet to salute the Rangers for their effort.  37 seconds later, Brady Skjei made sure the fans wouldn’t be celebrating just a moral victory.  He skated in on a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello, out-waited Aaron Dell and absolutely roofed the game-winner to send the Rangers home with their first win of the 2018-19 season.

The game was by no means perfect, but it was something to build upon.  Brett Howden stood out, Brendan Smith took a massive step forward in his comeback, and Henrik Lundqvist was Henrik Lundqvist.  It’s very possible that most of the Rangers’ victories this season will follow the formula we saw tonight.  A lot of effort, a little luck, and great goaltending adding up to two points.

Next up, the Rangers are home on Saturday afternoon to face Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.  Puck drops at 1:00 PM.