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Rangers, fans thrilled with debut of Panarin, Trouba, Fox, Kakko

Offseason additions contribute to win, add to excitement level in opener

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Artemi Panarin saw the puck drop to his stick in the left face-off circle courtesy of a rebound off Connor Hellebuyck's mask. A second later, it was in the net, the first of what projects to be many goals scored at Madison Square Garden for the New York Rangers' $81.5 million man.

"Really happy I was able to score this goal," Panarin said following New York's 6-4 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. "I'm like, you know, it relaxes me a little bit."

Jacob Trouba felt similarly after the defenseman had a goal and two assists against his former team, which traded him to the Rangers on June 17. The smile Trouba wore in his postgame interviews was telling.

"I'm going to look back on it, enjoy it," Trouba said of his Rangers debut.

Kaapo Kakko should too, considering how the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft looked in his first game. Adam Fox, New York's 21-year-old rookie defenseman, also showed progression in his NHL debut.

"If you're asking anyone here you want to get off to a good start, and especially when you get to a new team," Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. "I'm happy for them."

Video: WPG@NYR: Panarin nets PPG in first game with Rangers

He's not alone.

The Rangers had all their new talent on display in their season opener, and it was a welcome sight for the 18,006 fans, not to mention all their new teammates and coaches.

Panarin, Trouba, Kakko and Fox are among the biggest reasons interest in the Rangers has picked up since the end of last season and the expectations placed on them have grown to the point where they should at the very least be a Stanley Cup Playoff contender this season.

The Rangers haven't made the playoffs in the past two seasons, and they finished 20 points out of a playoff spot last season.

"It feels pretty good right now," coach David Quinn said. "Obviously with the excitement and all the hoopla and the things that happened in the offseason, everybody was looking forward to seeing us play. I'm sure there were plenty of times they weren't happy with what they saw, but at the end of the day, we got the job done."

Panarin, who signed a seven-year contract July 1, scored his power-play goal 27 seconds into the second period to give New York a 2-1 lead. He had an assist on Trouba's goal at 6:03 that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. 

Trouba had an NHL career-best three-point night. He had an assist on goals by Panarin and Zibanejad, who picked up right where he left off last season with four points (one goal, three assists). Zibanejad led the Rangers with 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) in 2018-19.

Video: WPG@NYR: Trouba scores against old club

Kakko didn't score, but he showed flashes of his speed, skill and power in his 15:31 of ice time, including slicing through three Jets to get a shot on goal that Hellebuyck stopped at 7:36 of the second period.

"That's my game, I like to do that," Kakko said. "And, yeah, hopefully I score next time."

Fox was up and down in his 12:24 of ice time, but Quinn expected that from the Jericho, New York, native who grew up a die-hard Rangers fan going to the Garden with his father, who is still a season ticket holder.

The Rangers acquired Fox in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes on April 30.

"I thought he got better and better as the game went on," Quinn said. "Listen, a kid from New York, a season ticket holder his whole life, I can't even imagine what was going through his mind when this game started. It's an exciting night, probably more so for the Fox family than any player on our team, but I thought he settled in as the night went on."

Video: Rangers top Jets in season opener

It didn't take any settling in time for Panarin and Trouba.

"It's certainly nice to get your first goal out of the way in the first game when you play for a new team," Quinn said. "Certainly, it will take a little bit of a load off them."

It should also make the interest and intrigue around the Rangers grow just a little bit more.

"Really happy we made the fans happy today," Panarin said.

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