OK, so that may be a bit of a stretch, but the rookie center playing in just his second career NHL game and his first at Madison Square Garden on Thursday did contribute two goals, including one on the power play, to lift the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders -- with his mom, grandmother and girlfriend among the 17,200 in attendance.
"I couldn't draw that up any better," Miller told NHL.com after finishing his second wave of interviews with the media. "I was a lot more fired up for the second goal. The first one, I didn't know what to do."
Miller, who was called up earlier in the week and debuted on Tuesday to positive reviews from coach John Tortorella in a 3-1 loss at New Jersey, jump-started the Rangers with his first career NHL goal 89 seconds into the game and then brought life to a reeling power play with his breakaway goal late in the second period.
The Rangers also got a first-period goal from Marian Gaborik, an empty-net goal from Ryan McDonagh and a pair of assists from Marc Staal. They held the Islanders to 0-for-5 on the power play and Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves.
Even with all of their struggles, including a power play that is now 4-for-37, the Rangers have won four of their last six games after a 1-3-0 start. They are 3-0-0 when scoring first.
"It's been a bumpy start for us, but we're working really hard right now to try and correct everything," Lundqvist said. "I thought [Thursday night] we did a lot of good things. Even the last couple of games we've been doing a lot of good things, but it hasn't paid off for us. [Thursday night] we got a good start."
The Islanders, meanwhile, dropped their third straight since winning back-to-back games over the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins. They have scored only three goals in the three losses, and their power play is 0-for-19 over the span. Evgeni Nabokov, who has been in net for all three losses, stopped 21 of 24 shots Thursday.
At least the Islanders may get reinforcements for Saturday's home game against Buffalo with defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky expected to join the team for practice Friday and center Josh Bailey (knee) likely to make his season debut.
"If we came in here and held them to mid-20 in shots, I thought we'd have a good chance of winning the game," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "But some guys played tentative and some guys didn't take hits to make plays. You're not going to win like that. You have to play for the guy across from you and next to you. I told them after the game that I was disappointed with some guys and their battle level."
Miller's second of the game gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission and took some pressure off their power play, which only seconds earlier gave up a shorthanded breakaway chance to Islanders forward Michael Grabner.
Lundqvist stopped Grabner with a right pad save at 17:59. Miller then won the defensive zone draw, got free up the ice and received a headman pass in stride from defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He got behind Matt Martin, Marty Reasoner and Andrew MacDonald to get in alone on Nabokov, who had the puck squirt through his legs with 1:49 to play in the period.
"I liked our speed on the entry and Mac makes a really good play," Tortorella said. "So we'll continue working at it. It's a big goal for us no matter how we scored."
Roughly seven minutes earlier, John Tavares picked the right corner of the net with a hard shot from the right circle to get the Islanders within 2-1. However, not only did the Islanders give up the power-play goal to Miller, they were held to only five shots on goal in their five power-play chances, three of which came over the final 20:23 of the game.
"Our power play couldn't get it going when it was a one-goal game and gave up the breakaway [to Miller]," Capuano said. "Special teams are still a factor."
The return of Rangers captain Ryan Callahan certainly had something to do with the Islanders' struggles on the power play. Callahan, who missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, led all forwards and was second to Staal in shorthanded ice time with 6:28. He played more than 19 minutes and had two shots on goal plus four hits and two blocked shots.
"With so many new people doing it, he understands what we're looking for," Tortorella said of Callahan's skill on the penalty kill. "And he adds that element of puck battles and blocking shots, which is huge on a penalty kill."
The Rangers had a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Miller 1:29 into the game and Gaborik with 5:56 left in the period.
Miller scored his first career goal on a stick-side shot from the left circle. Islanders captain Mark Streit was too high in the zone and got caught behind Miller, who got into the zone after fellow rookie Chris Kreider chipped the puck up to him from the wall in front of the penalty boxes. Miller kicked the puck to himself to get around Islanders defenseman Brian Strait and then froze Nabokov before firing the stick-side shot past him.
"What's he, 19?" Tortorella said, referring to Miller's age. "He has a lot of puck poise for such a young kid."
Constant pressure by the Rangers resulted in their second goal of the night roughly 12 1/2 minutes later.
A blue-line blast from Staal popped out to Gaborik between the hash marks. Taylor Pyatt was in front of the net and Gaborik used the screen to blast a wrist shot past Nabokov's glove for a 2-0 lead.
"We've been getting scored on first a lot this season and it's tough playing catch-up in this League," Staal said. "We knew that first goal is important, and we ended up getting two. That was huge for us and we were able to close it up."
|J.T. Miller (1) ASST: Chris Kreider (1), Marc Staal (4)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Marian Gaborik (6) ASST: Marc Staal (5), Brad Richards (7)|
2 - 0 NYR
|John Tavares (5) ASST: Matt Moulson (6), Joe Finley (1)|
2 - 1 NYR
|PPG - J.T. Miller (2) ASST: Ryan McDonagh (1)|
3 - 1 NYR
|EN - Ryan McDonagh (1) ASST: NONE|
4 - 1 NYR
|Rick Nash Holding against John Tavares|
|J.T. Miller Too many men/ice - bench|
|Matt Martin Holding against Michael Del Zotto|
|Matt Moulson Interference against J.T. Miller|
|Ryan McDonagh Roughing against Keith Aucoin|
|Darroll Powe Holding against Kyle Okposo|
|Ryan McDonagh Interference against David Ullstrom|