New York Rangers Brendan Smith
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Will the return of some players help the Rangers break out of a rough slump?

The New York Rangers have seen better days. They’ve been ravaged by injury and came into Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers on a four-game losing streak.

In Tuesday’s abominable loss to a New Jersey Devils team that hadn’t played in over two weeks, the Rangers suffered another injury-related disaster: defenseman Jacob Trouba broke his thumb and would miss four to six weeks.

K’Andre Miller, who was expected to return to the lineup after a one-game absence, apparently hasn’t progressed as the organization had hoped and would miss a second-straight game. However, not everything would be bad for New York on Thursday.

Their best player, Artemi Panarin, would return to the lineup after missing two games. Unfortunately, this meant that Julien Gauthier, who has been playing very well, would sit.

The absence of both Miller and Trouba also meant that Jack Johnson would return to the lineup for the first time since Jan. 26th. Alexandar Georgiev would also be getting the start in net.

The Rangers would be taking on another team that hadn’t played in quite some time: the Flyers suffered a COVID-19 outbreak and this game was their first since Feb. 7th.

Would the Rangers finally be able to get out of this dreadful slump?

1st period: Can’t get anything going

The first goal was very symbolic of how things have been going for the Rangers, as of late. Less than a minute into the game, after a very start-and-stop beginning, Georgiev made a wonderful save and his teammates were unable to clear.

Adam Fox ended up kicking the puck past his goalie. Shortly after, Johnson made his presence known by committing a tripping penalty. He’s lucky that the Rangers’ greatest strength this season has been the penalty kill.

Overall, the Rangers were unable to get anything going in the first and there was no flow to their offensive game.This was furthered by a Ryan Strome penalty.

The Rangers were awarded with a two-man advantage towards the end of the period, but Chris Kreider committed a penalty shortly after. The Rangers couldn’t get anything done on the power play and were on the penalty kill to end the period.

The Flyers had far too much space and time to work with and killed the Rangers with odd-man rushes. The Rangers also committed seven giveaways. Georgiev’s sharpness and great play this period prevented the Flyers from scoring more goals.

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2nd period: Nothing without Blackwell

The Rangers killed the penalty off well and were awarded with a power play of their own shortly after.

They were able to take advantage of the Flyers’ terrible penalty kill and finally score on the power play. Colin Blackwell continues to show how valuable he is to this team.

The Rangers looked much better this period and had several great scoring chances, but Flyers goalie Carter Hart couldn’t be bothered.

The Rangers’ second-best chance of the period came on a Pavel Buchnevich penalty shot, but Hart made a great stop to keep the game tied.

At least the Rangers appeared to be building momentum.

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3rd period: Their best for a reason

The Rangers really are a different team when Panarin plays. He made a terrific pass to Brendan Smith, who was able to score on an open net for his first of the season.

In true Rangers fashion, the lead wouldn’t last. The Flyers were able to tie the game with just over a minute left.

On the bright side: the Rangers were able to earn at least a point against one of the toughest teams in the division.

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Overtime: Mika couldn’t be colder

The Rangers had some chances in overtime and were even given a power play, but they were unable to score. Mika Zibanejad‘s continued offensive struggles were even more noticeable in overtime.

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Shootout: A relief

David Quinn surprised everyone by sending Kaapo Kakko out to take the first shot for the Rangers, and boy was that the right decision. The Rangers got two huge goals from Kakko and Panarin, and Georgiev came up with some great saves.

This was an important win that would hopefully give this struggling team some confidence and momentum moving forward.

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Key Moment: Breadman to Brendan

The key moment of the game was Panarin’s pass to Smith for the Rangers’ second goal of the game. The goal was important but the pass itself showed just how talented of a player Panarin is and how well he facilitates play for his team.

Player of the game: Brendan Smith

“Smitty” got it done for the Rangers in a big way. He defended well and obviously contributed offensively. Smith’s numbers on the night: 0.40 iXG, 0.77 xGF, 0.15 xGA, 1.06 GF, 0 GA, 1.21 defensive score, and 0.61 offensive score.

This was quite the performance for the third-pairing defenseman who hasn’t been seeing regular playing time.

Stats are courtesy of https://hockeystatcards.com/.

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