NEW YORK (77 WABC) – First he spurned the Islanders and then he helped burn them.
Artemi Panarin scored two goals and finished the night with five points as the Rangers downed the Islanders 6-2 at Madison Square Garden. The Russian forward had a hand in all but one goal for the Rangers on Monday night.
Chris Kreider, Adam Fox and Jacob Truba also scored for the Rangers, and Alexandar Georgiev made 32 saves. Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders.
Semyon Varlamov started the game before being pulled late in the third period in favor of Thomas Greiss.
Monday marked the first meeting of the year between the two hockey rivals and the game had some added intrigue going into it. Both the Islanders and Rangers had been chasing Panarin in free agency last offseason, but the 28-year-old opted to take less money and sign with the Rangers.
“It’s just a regular game,” Panarin said about facing the team he opted not to sign with. “It might just be some summer things between Rangers and Islanders, but just a regular game.”
Both of Panarin’s goals came in the third period with the Rangers already holding a sizable lead. Panarin was able to backhand the puck past Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov to put the Blueshirts up 4-1 and made it a 5-1 game off a shot that went five-hole on Varlamov.
The goals were Panarin’s team-leading 25th and 26th goals of the year and his 67 points in 45 games are lightyears ahead of the rest of the Ranger roster.
Yeah, we like him. pic.twitter.com/sQ6fEwGuqE
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 14, 2020
“Every now and then, he one-ups himself,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “He did that again tonight. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, he does so many great things out there for us.”
The Rangers will need more stellar performances out Panarin if they hope to make the postseason. Right now they sit six points back of the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and the Rangers have won three of their last four games.
“We’re getting deeper into the season, and if we want to achieve our goal, we can’t let many nights slip through our fingers,’’ Quinn said. “And it doesn’t mean you win every night, but you want to give yourself a chance to win every night. And lately, we’ve been doing a better job of that. Tonight was a huge test for us.’’
Despite some recent struggles, the Islanders remain one of the top teams in the NHL.
The Rangers and Islanders play two more times over the next week after not having faced one another this season.