Rangers set the tone with early physical play in Game 2 win

Marcos Cannizzaro

Marcos Cannizzaro


The beginning made the end possible.

At that moment, the goal seemed more than just a goal.

He wasn’t the winner of the game. That would come later, thanks to the Rangers’ surprising and versatile center Barclay Goodrow, at 14:01 of overtime, sending the Garden into a state of complete delirium.

Matt Rempe harshly controls Nick Cousins ​​during the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime victory in Game 2. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Goodrow’s goal tied this tight conference final series at 1-1 with a 2-1 Rangers victory in Game 2 in front of an eager and electric Garden crowd.

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But it was the Rangers’ first goal that seemed to carry so much weight. It felt much more meaningful overall than just a scoreboard tally.

The Rangers, as expected down 1-0 in the series, attacked the Panthers in the opening minutes, getting off to a dream start when they took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Vincent Trocheck just 4:12 into the game. game.

The goal had gravity because it came as a result of the type of physicality that the Rangers completely lacked in Game 1. A tone that was missing in Game 1 was set in the opening minutes of Game 2. The Rangers were fighting back. .

Trocheck’s goal was made possible by Alexis Lafreniere’s hard hit on Panthers star Carter Verhaeghe in front of the net. The hit freed the puck and opened space in front of Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for Trocheck to take a pass from Adam Fox and bury it from the backdoor.

Many things happened in that singular work.

The Rangers, who were eliminated in Game 1, scored a goal and finally gave the Garden faithful something to cheer about.

Vincent Trocheck scores on Sergei Bobrovsky during the first period of the Rangers’ Game 2 victory. Jason Szenes for the New York Post

And Lafreniere, who was a goat in Game 1 when he scored an own goal and missed several scoring opportunities, was the catalyst for the play with a physicality that set the tone.

“That goal was all Laffy,” Fox said. “He may not get an assist, but if he doesn’t shoot that (check), they might go the other direction. Instead, (the puck) came to Troch at the back door. When you get excluded, you want to get first. You don’t want to let that go on for too long and get too frustrated. “That was really a huge play.”

Rangers captain Jacob Trouba spoke of the Rangers “not being happy with our play in Game 1,” adding, “That wasn’t our best effort.”

That was a theme among the Rangers afterward, the unpleasant taste they had in their mouths from Game 1 and the determination to correct what they did wrong in that game, which was allowing Florida to dictate the game.

Barclay Goodrow (centre) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the winning goal at the
Rangers 2-1 overtime victory over Panthers in Game 2. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“There was just more emphasis on bringing out our ‘A’ game,” Trocheck said. “We didn’t love the way we played in Game 1, and I thought we came out of the jump with more energy tonight.”

The Rangers would persevere and hold off a confident and fearless Florida team that entered the night having won five of its six road playoff games (including four in a row) this postseason.

Before the game, the Panthers had a pretty good idea of ​​two things they would face on Friday:

– A desperate physical attack by the Rangers, who were facing their first moment of desperation in these playoffs, during which they had played mainly from the front foot.

– And Matt Rempe, the rugged 6-foot-8½ Rangers rookie who was a healthy scratch in Game 1.

After the Panthers’ Game 1 win, coach Paul Maurice said he had “a pretty good idea” what moves Rangers coach Peter Laviolette might make for Game 2. He didn’t say what they were. But surely Rempe’s playing was at least one of them.

Rempe did not score the winning goal. In fact, he didn’t score any goals. But his presence immediately cheered up the Garden crowd.

“I thought he had a really good impact,” Laviolette said.

Whether Rempe made the difference in the Rangers’ victory depends on who you look at. The important thing for the Rangers, however, is that they regained home field advantage when the teams head to Florida for Game 3 on Sunday.

Before the game, the Panthers reacted to Rempe’s potential play with what amounted to a shrug, even though the Rangers are now 21-3-1 with him in the lineup.

“The public certainly loves him,” Verhaeghe said. “He is a big and physical player. You have to keep an eye on him when he’s on the ice. But whatever players they have in his lineup, that’s not going to change our game.”

At the very least, even in a small way, he helped change the Rangers’ game.

He helped change the outcome of the most important game of his season.

It helped change the series.

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