Artemi Panarin, Madison Square Garden
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

The Bread Man—New York Rangers superstar Artemi Panarin—saves Manhattan on a Monday night at Madison Square Garden. 

Early Monday morning, a water main broke at 63rd Street and Broadway. Streets and basements were flooded. Cars were submerged. Subway service slowed to a crawl. I love Manhattan, but you can’t say it doesn’t have its problems. There’s always something going wrong.

The subway slowdown worried me most. My friend Weinstein had to get to Madison Square Garden to watch the New York Rangers play the Islanders, and I had to meet him there.

If you’ve never been to a hockey game, come out with Weinstein and me just once in your life. You’ll love it! You’ll get more than your share of banter and commentary, and occasionally, something that makes you think.

Plus, I played two years of hockey in high school, and Weinstein knows the referee’s signals for every penalty because he played so much NHL ’05 as a kid. Combined, we make a hockey expert.

In the stands before the game, I asked him whether he experienced problems on the subway.

“I love Manhattan, but on a crowded subway car at rush hour, people gotta chill,” he said. “I got really sassy with someone. It was out of character.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I was trying to get out, and someone was blocking me,” he said. “So I said ‘excuse me,’ but maybe not loud enough to hear. So I pushed past her—” he laughed and stopped talking.

“I pushed past her—” he said again, but suddenly, the P.A. system blared, “Welcome to this National Hockey League matchup! Featuring the New York Islanders—” Weinstein held his hand up to signal that he was taking a break from the story, then applauded lightly “—and your New York Rangers!”

He applauded some more. “I’m leaving you in suspense,” he said.

Finally, the applause stopped.

“So, I pushed past her,” he said, “and she said, ‘the word is… excuse me.’ And I said — immediately, I regretted this — ‘that’s two words, and I said both of them.”

The puck dropped. Eighteen seconds into the game, the Islanders scored.

“It’s not the start you want,” Weinstein said.

Behind us, two fans launched into a joint “Potvin Sucks” whistle.

“I hate that,” Weinstein said. “It’s so mean-spirited. Just be nice. It did answer one of my fundamental questions, though, which is, are there real people whistling?”

In front of us, a row stood as a crowd of people made their way to their seats.

“Sit down!” yelled a man sitting behind us. He sounded like Joe Benigno.

“I hate sports fans,” Weinstein said.

Suddenly, a Rangers’ breakaway, a shot, a save. “Rebound!” shouted the fan behind us.

“Why are we shouting ‘rebound?’” Weinstein asked despairingly. “I’m – I’m not going to make it.” He sank down in his seat.

Artemi Panarin, The Bread Man T-Shirt

It was a rivalry game, and no one would say it wasn’t lively. Barely two minutes in, Micheal Haley and Ross Johnston dropped gloves. Even before the next faceoff, Brendan Smith and Matt Martin dropped gloves as well, and received game misconduct penalties for a second fight during the same stoppage.

Eight minutes into the first period, Artemi Panarin moved in and fired a shot. Semyon Varlamov saved it, but Jesper Fast was at the net. He knocked home the carom, and the score was tied 1-1.

“What percentage of that goal do you credit to these guys shouting ‘rebound’?” Weinstein asked.

The Islanders have the better record, but on the ice, the superior team was clear. In the second period, the Rangers pulled the game out of reach. Five minutes in, Panarin fired a shot from the blue line. Chris Kreider tipped it past Varlamov and into the net. I shouted and jumped from my seat.

“I wasn’t watching,” Weinstein said.

Six minutes later, Adam Fox scored, too. Panarin assisted.

Panarin added a goal of his own less than a minute into the third period off a Brady Skjei rebound, then scored again nine minutes in to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead. For the Rangers, Panarin basically plays the role of Moses, only cooler and better at hockey.

The Bread Man, as he’s nicknamed, is doing his part to carry this team to good things, and fans can tell. Panarin had two goals and three assists, and when he was named the No. 1 star, his reception from the crowd was louder and more excited than I’ve heard in a long time.

Jacob Trouba added a goal, and the Islanders scored another in garbage time. The Rangers ran away with a definitive 6-2 win and moved to within six points of a playoff spot.

The 1 Train got me home without a hitch. The subway was running perfectly. The Rangers beat the Islanders into submission at The Garden.

Manhattan was working again. The Bread Man saved it on this night.

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