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Rangers meet Blue Jackets out to build on well-rounded opener

The opener of the Peter Laviolette era was a rousing success for the New York Rangers, who defended well and received big nights from their stars.

Coming off a successful season opener, the Rangers will attempt to produce a strong repeat showing Saturday night when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.

New York is attempting to open 2-0-0 for the second straight season after scoring early and never trailing in Thursday’s 5-1 win at Buffalo. The Rangers held the Sabres to 25 shots and blocked 23 others, won 38 of 60 faceoffs and got multi-point nights from Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

“I think it’s fun, honestly,” New York captain Jacob Trouba said of the defense. “A lot of guys get excited about it. It’s fun to contribute and do things like that. It takes some courage. It’s not for everyone, but when you have guys that are willing to do it, it kind of goes through the team.”

Kreider scored a power-play goal, netted a short-handed tally and set up Trouba’s empty-net goal. Panarin scored New York’s third goal and set up a goal by Alexis Lafreniere while Zibanejad collected three assists.

Kreider netted his eighth short-handed goal since the start of 2021-22, while Zibanejad totaled three assists for the 12th time in his career.

“They put a lot into it and they worked really hard,” Laviolette said of the Rangers playing a better quality of defense. “We called it before the game in saying to take it for a test drive. It’s one game. But there were positives to pull from that.”

Like the Rangers, the Blue Jackets are playing under a new coach in Pascal Vincent, who took over when Mike Babcock resigned Sept. 17 following allegations of violating players’ privacy during offseason meetings.

Vincent’s debut was a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in their home opener on Thursday. He is hoping to see better defense Saturday after his team allowed 37 shots on goal and never led.

“It’s a game where you play 1-on-1s most of the time,” Vincent said. “In those battles, we have to win more than just 50 percent, so I thought the 50/50 battles, we can do a better job.”

Jake Bean scored a tying goal 8:24 into the first period and Patrik Laine scored in the final minute of the game, when the Blue Jackets allowed two empty-net goals. Adam Fantilli, the third overall pick in the 2023 draft, centered the third line and collected an assist while playing 13:40 in 17 shifts to impress his new coach.

“I think the guy is a driver,” Vincent said “He’s a guy that will compete every shift. Everybody makes mistakes but he never makes a mistake of not working. Really impressed with him.”

The Blue Jackets already are dealing with an early injury concern. Top defenseman Zach Werenski came away with a bruised quad in the second period. Werenski took a hit from Philadelphia’s Garnet Hathaway and is expected to miss one to two weeks after missing the final 69 games last season due to a torn labrum in his shoulder.

The Rangers won three of four meetings last season after taking a 5-1 home loss on Oct. 23. New York is 7-3-0 over the past 10 encounters and scored 13 goals in its three wins last season.

–Field Level Media

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