With 59 seconds left on the Rangers’ first and only power play of the night, Chris Kreider spiked one up the ice before a faceoff in the offensive zone.
Normally, as has been the case for virtually all power plays over the past two-plus seasons, the first point would be up for grabs. But, here, in this case, head coach Gerard Gallant sent a second unit on the ice consisting of Philippe Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, the recovered Vitaly Kravtsov and Jakob Truba.
It was as if pigs were flying in the Garden.
And then, just half a minute later, Chytil put the roof on the roof from the left circle off a superb pass from Kako to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in what turned out to be a 3-1 win over the mighty Maple Leafs at the Garden on Thursday. extend the club’s stabilizing winning streak to five in a row.
The lack of ice time for PP2 has become a bleeding edge in the David Quinn era. The first unit goes on and on… and stays on… and stays on.
Get this: Chytil’s assists from first Lafreniere and then Kakko represented the first PPG by a second-unit forward in 131 games since Kakko got one in Buffalo on April 25, 2021, in the 49th contest. 56-game season.
“We finally got a little bit of time where we could make some plays,” said Chytil, whose PPG was the fifth of his career and first since Jan. 2, 2020, when he got it in Calgary. “I’m not going to lie, I was happy about it. That doesn’t happen very often.
“It’s not easy, but our first point is incredible, so we can’t complain about that. But when we get a chance like this, I’m really happy that we were able to score.”
The Maple Leafs, 9-0-1 in their previous 10 games while outscoring their opponents 41-16 overall, entered the Garden on a 120-point pace. Toronto created its own chances, all but one deflected by the excellent Igor Shesterkin, but the Blueshirts remained poised and reasonably disciplined throughout. Their penalty kill was outstanding, allowing just four shots over 6:00 in favor of the Maple Leafs. It was the Rangers’ most significant win not only in this little heater they’ve been on, but of the season.
The mold was broken not only by the use of power play personnel, but also by the entirety of Gallant’s distribution of ice time. Reworked line combinations allowed for some balance. The Cubs actually had the most ice time of any unit at 12:45 on five-on-five, while the presumed first unit of Artemi Panarin-Mika Zibanejad-Barclay Goodreau was connected at 12:10.
The third line of Kreider, Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Vesey combined for 8:52, while the fourth line of Kravtsov-Johnny Brodzinki-Julien Gauthier combined for 6:24 of five-on-five ice time.
Kravtsov, playing in his fifth game of the last round of 17, replaced Sammy Bless. The winger was engaged in 11:44 of ice time. The best news was that Gallan had No. 74 on the second PP unit in a way the coach almost never did when Zach Jones was on his bench.
But perhaps this signals a fresh approach. Gallant has trusted Vesey with significant ice time this year, making him a top six/nine player. The coach was rewarded throughout, but especially in this game, when the former No. 26 made it 2-1 at 15:33 of the second while burning TJ Broady with speed before. adding the compression void mesh.
Allocating ice time is about giving players opportunities to succeed. It’s about maintaining a somewhat balanced approach so the big dogs don’t get exhausted by the All-Star break. No team rolls four lines from start to finish, not even Devils of the Crash Line, but a more even approach is needed here.
This one, where the forwards’ ice time ranged from Brodzinski’s 8:15 to Zibanejad’s 18:40, and six coming in between 14:12 and 16:10, was more like it. Sure enough, there was only 89 seconds of PP time.
“I know it’s tough for them to come out with 25 seconds left and try to make something happen,” Kreider said. “You know, there’s a lot of times when a puck is cleared and I’m going to make a change, but Igor moves the puck right up ice and it causes another inbound and an attack and we’re done. staying
“Blame Igor. That didn’t happen with Hank [Lundqvist]”.
This was a good night for the kids. It was a good night for the coach. It was a good night for the Rangers.