Not even the effect of Pavel Buchnevich’s return to Madison Square Garden was going to get in the Rangers’ way.
As valiantly as the former Blueshirt and the Blues fought, the Rangers pulled out a 5-3 win over St. Louis behind Chris Kreider’s power-play goal in the third period to avoid what would’ve been their third straight loss in regulation — the kind of streak they have yet to experience this season.
The Rangers came out with purpose in the third period, putting the puck on net and crowding the crease.
With roughly 12 ½ minutes left in regulation, the puck came loose off a Rangers rush and popped out to defenseman Patrik Nemeth at the top of the zone. Nemeth had a wide-open net and blasted a shot that ricocheted off forward Ivan Barbashev’s skate, off the post and in for his first goal of the season to knot the game 3-3.
Then with Colton Parayko in the box for delay of game, Adam Fox sent a shot from the top of the zone that Kreider tipped in at 11:40 to regain the lead for the Rangers. Artemi Panarin then topped off the scoring with an empty-net goal.
The second period saw a flurry of goals from the Blues in the span of 2:14. After Ryan Strome whipped a feed from Panarin past St. Louis netminder Ville Husso to extend the lead 2-0, the Rangers suddenly became bystanders to three unanswered goals on three consecutive shots from the Blues.
First, an odd-man rush ended with Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly putting one past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin. Winger Barbashev then beat Shesterkin high glove just over a minute later to even the score. The Blues grabbed their first lead of the night off David Perron’s goal with 15.8 seconds left in the middle frame to send the Blues into the third period up 3-2.
The Rangers lost fourth-line center Kevin Rooney after the first period, forcing head coach Gerard Gallant to go with 11 forwards and switch up his lines as well. Rooney, who won 3 of 4 faceoffs in 5:26, stayed in the locker room after the first intermission with what the Rangers said was an upper-body injury.
Alexis Lafreniere gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead to take into the first intermission, after the 20-year-old winger cleaned up the rebound on a long shot from Fox at 8:55. The goal counted as Lafreniere’s 13th of the season — a new career-high in his second season — and his fifth in the past nine games since getting promoted to the Rangers’ top line.
The Blues poured on several shots in the final minute and a half of the first period, but they were either blocked or saved by Shesterkin.