When the Rangers needed a save on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, Alexandar Georgiev was there to provide it. When they needed a goal to climb back into a hockey game, Tony DeAngelo made the delivery not once, but twice.
But when they needed the puck to let their big guns make something, anything, happen for them in overtime, the Arizona Coyotes were unwilling to oblige.
On a night the Rangers worked through a rocky start to climb back to level terms and push a game to overtime, the Coyotes took the opening faceoff of the 3-on-3 and never surrendered possession over 1 minutes and 4 seconds, at which point Christian Dvorak roofed a wrist shot to send the Rangers to a 3-2 loss at Madison Square Garden.
Yet on this night it was a couple of 23-year-olds leading the way in getting the Rangers a point after they trailed twice in the game. Georgiev was both busy and magnificent over the first 20 minutes, in which he made 20 of his 32 saves to keep the Rangers within striking distance. Once they got their feet under them coming out of first intermission, DeAngelo scored early in the second period at even strength, then late on a power play at the tail end of a 5-on-3.
It was DeAngelo's 100th game as a Ranger, two days shy of his 24th birthday, and it came against the team that dealt him to New York in a summer deal in 2017. He played 18:34 and his Head Coach opined afterward that "he had a good night on top of the goals."
Kaapo Kakko, meanwhile, helped set up his power-play strike, giving the Rangers' 18-year-old rookie the first assist of his NHL career. Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Lemieux each added helpers - Strome for the fourth time in the last five games.
Lawson Crouse scored 13:06 into the game, and Alex Goligoski got his first of the season on a second-period power play for the Coyotes, who won their fourth straight game and for the fifth time in their last six (5-0-1).
"We came up big in the second period, played better, scored some big goals," Georgiev said after topping 30 saves for the third time in his three starts this season. "It was a tight game. I think we have to take the positives from it."
Certainly there are positives to be taken from the pushback the Rangers mustered after the first period to grab a point. But David Quinn and his players were in a less enthusiastic mood about the fact they put themselves in another position to require such a pushback, two days after a
similar start against Vancouver had them chasing a game they would end up losing despite a torrid final 20 minutes.
"Repeat performance of what happened the other day," Quinn said. "You've just got to dig your way out. We made strides in the second period. Big kill in the third, our goalie played well, and we got a point."
The big kill came with under 14 minutes left in a tie game, when a penalty-killing Brendan Smith had the misfortune of watching his clearing attempt sail over the glass - he believed it had been deflected. That put the Rangers down two men for 1:36; they allowed just a single shot on goal in that time, a 50-footer from Oliver Ekman-Larsson that Georgiev wiped away.
The Rangers had felt their penalty-killing - sharp in September tune-ups and in the early part of their schedule - had been lagging the last couple games. It came through in a big way on Tuesday night.
"Tonight we were more decisive," Quinn said of his PK. "We made strides in the right direction on penalty killing. It allowed us to get a point with what happened in the third period."
That they even made it that far is largely owed to Georgiev and his first period, in which he made a save a minute - Arizona had 34 shots attempts in the frame. Once the Rangers settled themselves, DeAngelo scored his first 5:04 in following a rush - Buchnevich finding a cutting Lemieux for a breakaway, DeAngelo potting the rebound after Darcy Kuemper made one of his 17 saves.
Goligoski sent a power-play blast through traffic at 13:46 to restore the Arizona lead, but once the Rangers had come up empty on a late 5-on-3, they cashed in the 5-on-4, with Strome waiting at the goal line for DeAngelo to make his backdoor cut, then whipping a pass onto his tape.
"Just trying to pick and choose spots to jump in," DeAngelo said. "Fortunately tonight they were two of the right ones."
That was enough that the Rangers could take a point away from this game, along with the lessons they will draw heading into the final three games of this homestand, continuing on Thursday night against the 8-1-1 Buffalo Sabres. Among them is their recent pattern of early penalties, which has hindered them from finding any first-period flow.
"The first 10 minutes, we get a little bit on our heels and I feel like we're watching too much, we're not reacting," said Jesper Fast, who had moved up to play on the Rangers' top line for this game but also took 2:41 shorthanded. "It's hard when you play PK for 10, 12 minutes a game. But we worked hard, and at least we deserve the one point today, and then it's always a lottery a little bit when it comes to overtime."
"It's going to take a little time, but we're going to stay at it," Quinn said. "We know we're a lot better than this."