NEW YORK — Adam Fox had already been on the ice for more than 24 minutes Tuesday night and was nearing the end of his most intense shift, so no one would have blamed him if he’d headed to the bench for a change .
But the reigning Norris Trophy winner saw a cutting edge opportunity led by Rangers’ most dynamic striker and decided there was no turning back now.
“When I saw the two-on-one opportunity, I got a little second wind there, especially with (Artemi Panarin),” Fox said with a smile.
He unloaded the tank to go from one end of the Madison Square Garden ice to the other and loaded the net. Panarin found it and Fox did the rest, beating Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson for the game-clinching goal in a 4-3 overtime victory.
“He ran with the right guy,” added Panarin with a smirk, who got his third assist of the game on the play.
The result was the comeback No.20 victory for Rangers, who fell behind the visiting Ducks with less than 10 minutes left. But that only positioned them for another dramatic rally in a season that has been filled with it.
“We’re just a confident bunch,” Fox said. “I don’t think we ever thought we were down. You can call it resilience. I don’t think, in our minds, that we’re one goal behind and think the game is over. “I think we’re trying to get one. You’re not always going to get one, but we have a lot of talent and an ability to score.
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Chris Kreider scored the comeback by doing what he’s done all year – scoring – to tie with 6:20 to go, setting up OT heroism. Fox ended a 55-second shift in which he ran the length of the ice twice with his ninth goal.
The 24-year-old also had two assists to bring his season total to 52, leading all NHL defensemen. He responded to a minus-four performance in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues with back-to-back solid games.
“It’s a long season,” Fox said. “You look around the league, there are star players who are under four, under five on some nights, and these things just happen.”
“You obviously don’t want to be a deterrent for your team and be on the ice for goals against,” he added. “Obviously we are competitors. We don’t want to hurt the team like that and we wanted to come back strong. But that’s also something where these games are going to happen. We’re not naive in that sense. It’s going to happen, but just try to have a short memory and go back to how we could play.”
A short memory has been a hallmark not only of Fox, but of the entire team.
That’s been a clear strength for the Rangers, who are now 38-17-5 and remain tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metro Division.
“There’s definitely no giving up in the band,” Kreider said. “I think it shows how focused this group is on accomplishing our first goal, which is to make the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if the games don’t go well or you don’t feel good individually, the guys are capable of refocusing and helping the team try to win a hockey game.”
A step in the right direction for Alexandar Georgiev
In an effort to help Alexandar Georgiev find his groove and come out of his slump, head coach Gerard Gallant has named his backup goaltender for the second time in the last four games.
“Earlier, when (Igor Shesterkin) got injured, he played four or five games in a row and played good hockey,” Gallant said before the game. “We all know that the backup job is a really tough job and you don’t get enough starts. You’d like to get a little started, but that’s how it is in the NHL. You have a guy like Shesty, who played the way he played, so it’s difficult for the substitute. But he has to prepare and have a good attitude. Go ahead and win games, because you need two goalkeepers.
The 26-year-old recorded a .935 save percentage in seven appearances in December while Shesterkin was out with a lower-body injury, but his numbers plummeted once his ice time dwindled.
Georgiev had posted a sub-.880 save percentage in each of his previous four starts – which spanned a 46-day period – but Tuesday could be seen as a performance to stop the bleeding.
He made 20 saves for his first win since Jan. 8, including some tough saves on budding young Ducks star and Bedford, NY native Trevor Zegras.
“It feels good to hit a few pucks,” Gallant said. “I thought he looked good and he looked solid and he looked comfortable tonight, and that’s a good sign for him.”
Third line signs of life
Rangers took an early lead on Jonny Brodzinski’s first goal of the season.
AHL captain Hartford came down the right wing and fired a wrist shot from Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on the stick side at 4:29 of the start of the game. It was a standout game, but Brodzinski has repeatedly infused the struggling third line with energy since making progress on last week’s Midwest road trip.
“He’s playing really well,” Gallant said. “He kills a few penalties for us, and obviously that goal was a great shot. He had a terrific shot on a good goalkeeper, but he’s doing a good job. ice cream.”
The goal was set up by a solid pass from Filip Chytil through the neutral zone, who continued an improved streak of play from the 22-year-old centre.
He played at least 13:35 in six consecutive games, producing four points in that span while seemingly earning his coach’s trust.
“I really like his game,” Gallant said. “We talked about it after the Dallas game (Saturday). I thought it was his best game of the year, for me. I thought he played a good physical and strong game. He did everything strong with the puck, and again tonight he looked really good. He looks confident and that’s going to be key for us.”
“High Pressure Situations”
The Ducks tied the score at 1-1 later in the first period on a lucky rebound as Comtois and K’Andre Miller maneuvered to position themselves in the slot, setting up a back-and-forth battle for the rest of the game .
Mika Zibanejad put Rangers back on top 3:06 into the second period when he unloaded a one-timer for his 24th goal of the season, which came on an assist from Fox in a delayed penalty situation.
But the Ducks responded again just 1:47 later, when Cam Fowler launched a long wrist shot from the point through traffic and passed Georgiev onscreen to tie the score at 2-2.
That would hold until Derek Grant scored the go-ahead goal for Anaheim with 9:25 left in the game. Former Ranger Danny O’Regan set up the breakaway by blocking a shot and pushing a long pass past Grant. But all it did was put Rangers in a position to lock in their 20th comeback of the season.
Kreider scored his 39th goal of the season — and 400th point of his career — with 13 seconds left on the power play in the third period to tie the score at 3-3. That tally forced OT and improved the Rangers’ power-play conversation rate to 26.8%, which ranks second in the league behind Toronto.
“You see the mentality in a situation like[Ryan Strome]and Mika and Foxy and Arty, where, they’re raising their level so much,” Kreider said of the PP. “The best players in the world can do it. They certainly do it in most situations. They create so many chances in such a short time. I wouldn’t want to kill a penalty against these guys when we’re down. in a pressure situation. All of them are players, and they just find ways to get the puck to the net and create in high pressure situations.
Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Learn more about his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.