Henrik Lundqvist always talked about focusing on the process and the journey rather than the outcome. Mika Zibanejad is different.
“It seems like the year is going by fast, but we still have almost half of the season to play,” Zibanejad said after Thursday’s dramatic win over Dallas. “I think we’re getting more rebounds now because we’re working hard to earn them and doing more of the right things.
“But I said this about a month ago and it’s still true. Playing well is not the key to building good habits. It’s not the most important thing. Of course you want to play well, but for me the only important thing is to win the game and get two points. That’s how close it is.”
Back at the Garden on Sunday against Montreal, the Rangers didn’t play particularly well. They outscored their opponents 27 times overall.
Most importantly, according to Zibanejad, they didn’t win, dropping this one 2-1 to undo the impact of Thursday’s last-second mini-miracle win.
The score was tied 1-1 after the second period when Artemi Panarin hit a delayed penalty at 16:03 to cancel out Kirby Dach’s power play goal with 4:54 left. Rangers were rarely the starters in the opening 40 minutes.
And they paid the price in the third period, with Cole Caufield scoring at 8:56 and Sam Montembo making 38 saves to hand the Blues (13-3-2) only their third loss in their last 18 games and preserve their playoff cushion. seven points.
Head coach Gerard Gallant’s choice to play Igor Shesterkin in net in this front end of this Monday’s contest in Columbus was an inspired one. Shesterkin spurned five Class A chances in the first period, starting with Cole Caulfield’s left wing drive into the net just 45 seconds into the game. Shesterkin’s most acrobatic stop, his first of the game against Yurai Slavkovsky, just 10 minutes from the lead. The goalkeeper was excellent throughout.
The Canadiens had few illusions entering the season after a particularly ugly crash last season that cost general manager Marc Bergevin his job. In came Jeff Gorton, who had engineered the rebuild in New York, as vice president of hockey operations, and soon Kent Hughes as GM and Martin St. Louis as coach.
And indeed, without necessarily trying, it looked like Montreal would be in prime lottery position to land Connor Bedard. But the Habs, perhaps performing out of the gate as an extension of their coach’s overachiever image, were a stunning 14-12-2 as of the morning of Dec. 2.
Even the dramatic equalizer the club brought to the Garden with three wins in their immediately preceding 15 games (3-11-1) wasn’t enough to move the Canadiens within a hail of a Columbus-Anaheim-Chicago triple. which controls the main lottery positions.
The Habs, 27th overall, nine points better than the basement-dwelling Jackets, will simply have to rely on Gorton’s magic to pull off a third ping-pong ball extravaganza, just as they did in 2019 when the Blueshirts took off. Kaapo Kakko went from sixth to second, and again to next as the team exited the 24-team bubble tournament to become the first overall pick behind Alexis Lafreniere.
Lafreniere, meanwhile, was on the left side for the second straight game in Chris Kreider’s absence with Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko. The unit, initially untouched through 10 periods at the start of this run, logged 14:34 of ice time in Thursday’s dramatic 2-1 overtime win over the Stars, with 77.78 shooting and 56.72 xG.