So it’s overtime in a game the Rangers desperately need to win. Over the boards come Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox. Then, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich and Tony DeAngelo.
Then, third shift, Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller and … Colin Blackwell?
Yes, Colin Blackwell, the 27-year-old free-agent signee out of Nashville on a two-year deal worth an AAV of $725,00 per. Colin Blackwell, who started the year on the taxi squad before being promoted last weekend in Pittsburgh.
Colin Blackwell, the best Blueshirts’ No. 43 since Ryan Callahan wore it in his 2006-07 rookie season, who made two outstanding defensive plays on his OT shift and took possession of the puck in the neutral zone before gaining the zone and sending Lafreniere a pitch-perfect two-on-one feed that the 19-year-old converted for the winner at 2:47 for Thursday’s 3-2 victory.
“We’d gotten four goals in the two previous games and he was a guy that created two of them,” David Quinn said of the winger who primarily played on the right with Panarin and Ryan Strome. “He had a good night tonight.
“You have to let the ice test determine who plays hockey, not where they were drafted, not their résumé. We needed a win tonight. This kid deserves to be out there. That’s why he was out there. He’s got seven points in his last seven NHL games and what happens in this game is that we get so caught up in where people are drafted and hype about people.
“But I don’t give two craps about that right now,” the coach said. “We want to win hockey games and he was the best option. How did it work out?”
Jack Johnson was out of the lineup but not as a healthy scratch. Rather, the lightning rod sixth/seventh defenseman was sidelined because of a groin issue.
“We think it’s short term,” Quinn said.
Brendan Smith took Johnson’s spot and played a solid game in 17:17 of plus-one work.
In the meantime, Julien Gauthier watched in street clothes as a healthy scratch for the fourth straight time. That encompassed the road trip that concluded after a pair in Pittsburgh and two in Buffalo.
“We’re going to stick with the same group of forwards,” Quinn said prior to the match. “We will see Julien soon.”
The Blueshirts revamped their power-play units, moving DeAngelo and Buchnevich onto a three-forward, two-defense PP1 to join Panarin, Zibanejad and Fox. Kreider and Strome were bumped to a three-forward, two-defense PP2 with Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko, Miller and Jacob Trouba.
The Blueshirts went 0-for-3 on the man advantage despite pouring 10 shots on Linus Ullmark and swarming around the net. The first unit maintained possession for nearly the entire two-minutes at a time while amassing more than five of the six total minutes of power-play time.
Strome did not get on for the final 3:42 of regulation or in the OT after he was seemingly and inadvertently kicked in the skate or lower leg by Matt Irwin against the boards.
The 2-4-1 Blueshirts are at the Garden on Saturday against the Penguins in the first of a three-game homestand.