Lafreniere’s goal could give the New York Rangers a much needed confidence boost

January 28, 2021. Buffalo, NY - The New York Ranger's forward Alexis Lafreniere score the winning goal in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images

After Tuesday night’s loss to Buffalo, New York Rangers head coach David Quinn discussed the recent streak of losing the last four games by one goal but finished his comments by saying “I have zero doubt that we are going to get out of this.” Not only was he correct, but Alexis Lafreniere’s overtime winning goal may have given the Blueshirts the “shot in the arm” that will carry over beyond this win.

Colin Blackwell made a great defensive play in the neutral zone to spring a 2-on-1 rush that led to his assist on the Lafreniere goal. That was not Blackwell’s best assist of the night. That goes to the fact that it was Blackwell who was mindful of the fact that it was the rookie’s first NHL goal and promptly scooped up the puck for Lafreniere.

The immediate effect on the Rangers was apparent in head coach David Quinn’s post-game Zoom conference when he said how he felt about the win: “(It feels) pretty friggin’ good, I’ll tell you that,” Quinn said. “We needed this. We needed this because, again, we had done a lot of good things. To come out of this trip with three points, we felt like we played better. We felt like we maybe deserved a few more points. That being said, the way we responded under these circumstances says an awful lot about this group. There’s a lot of things you learn about your team as your season moves forward, and we learned an awful lot about our team over the last 24 hours.”

The Rangers probably played their best game of the season on Thursday night. They did everything the way it was supposed to be done, especially compared to Tuesday night’s loss. While losing an OT game would not be ideal, the who, what, and how the game ended could provide a spark to the team that needed to get over a hump that has dragged on since last summer.

In addition to the morale boost, Artemi Panarin is starting to come around as he picked up a goal and an assist in Thursday’s game. Panarin continues to be a model of consistency as he has recorded 423 points in 398 career NHL games; the only active players who have tallied more points within their first 400 career NHL games are Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Connor McDavid, per @NYRStatsinfo

To help keep the momentum and positive vibes going forward, seven of the Rangers’ next eight games will take place at MSG, and each of the eight contests will take place in the New York Metro Area. The only road game comes on February 6 when the Rangers travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils.