The Rangers have faced their fair share of curveballs throughout the hectic 2020-21 NHL season, but Wednesday brought a four-seam fastball. It was a 99-mph heater the team bashed out of the Garden
The Rangers have faced their fair share of curveballs throughout the hectic 2020-21 NHL season, but Wednesday brought a four-seam fastball.
It was a 99-mph heater the team bashed out of the Garden and into the Hudson River.
Roughly 2 ½ hours before the puck dropped in their rematch against the Flyers, the Rangers announced their entire coaching staff had to enter COVID-19 protocol and was unavailable to participate in the game.
But the Blueshirts batted a thousand despite the unexpected shake up behind the bench, clobbering the Flyers 9-0 for their first win over Philadelphia in regulation this season. It was their third shutout of the season, and second in the last three games, while their nine goals counted as a new season high.
The Rangers were in a league of their own. And leading off was Mika Zibanejad, who recorded his fifth career hat trick and dished out three assists. Pavel Buchnevich cleaned up with two goals and two assists. It was the best game of the season for Zibanejad, who had a five-goal game against Washington last season on March 5, 2020.
Alexandar Georgiev pitched his first shutout since his first start of the season, on Jan. 16 against the Islanders, turning aside all 26 shots he faced.
Rangers head coach David Quinn and assistant coaches Jacques Martin, David Oliver, and Greg Brown all were unavailable for the game, so the AHL Hartford staff filled in. Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch and associate coach Gord Murphy found themselves back behind an NHL bench for the first time since they were both fired by the Flyers in 2018-19.
Murphy had filled in as an assistant for the Rangers during the 2019-20 bubble playoffs, when former assistant Lindy Ruff was hired by the Devils. Rangers associate general manager Chris Drury also assisted with coaching responsibilities against the Flyers.
“It came as a shock,” Zibanejad said during his pregame interview with NBC.
Being in COVID-19 protocol doesn’t necessarily mean any of the coaches tested positive for the virus. Rangers forward Phil Di Giuseppe, however, has been on the coronavirus protocol list since Sunday, which could mean he did in fact test positive.
Placement in the COVID-19 protocol could mean a player or coach was deemed to have had high-risk close contact with someone who did test positive. It could also be for any other precautionary reasons.
In contrast to the Rangers, the Flyers were sluggish and goaltender Brian Elliott was pulled after the Rangers made it 5-0 just 7:30 into the second period. Carter Hart, Philadelphia’s usual starting netminder, couldn’t stop the bleeding either as he was lit up for four goals — including all three of Zibanejad’s — on 10 shots in the second period alone.
Behind goals from Brendan Lemieux and Artemi Panarin in the opening period, the Rangers were ready to bring the game home. Buchnevich buried two goals in the span of two minutes before Jacob Trouba one-timed his first tally of the season into the back of the net, ending Elliott’s night.
After Hart took over, Zibanejad opened the scoring on his first hat trick since Oct. 3 2019 with a shorthanded breakaway at 8:27 in the second for the 6-0 score. Then, with the Rangers on the power play shortly after, Zibanejad made a strong move to the net and flipped the puck top shelf. Hats from the few fans in the crowd rained down after Zibanejad converted on a two-on-one with Chris Kreider.
Filip Chytil closed the scoring in the final seconds of the second period.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mollie Walker