When the Rangers were skating in Central Park on Saturday afternoon, David Quinn tweaked his practice plan on the fly because one part of it was "too much shinny hockey for my liking." A similar thought surely crossed the Coach's mind on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
"It was a (Sunday) afternoon shootout at the O.K. Corral," Quinn said.
For a little over 2½ wild and entertaining hours on Sunday, the Rangers and the Florida Panthers took turns throwing haymakers, and in the end they both came away having landed a few and a little staggered themselves - and when all was said and done the Rangers had to settle for a single point out of a 6-5 shootout loss.
Momentum was a hot potato in a game that was tied five separate times - 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5. The Rangers took the lead three times and fell behind twice, and after 65 minutes hadn't settled it, they were forced to decide the outcome in their first shootout of the season. That alone earned them a point for the seventh time in their last nine games (5-2-2).
Their first lead in the game came from the stick of Ryan Lindgren, whose goal 5:06 into the afternoon was the first of his NHL career. His team followed that up with a four-goal second period, their highest-scoring period in two years, on goals from Filip Chytil (who torched his defenseman 1-on-1), Brady Skjei (unassisted), Kaapo Kakko (his third in six games) and Chris Kreider (a perfect redirection of a perfect shot from Adam Fox).
The Rangers have scored 14 goals in their last three games, and 15 different skaters have had points. Both Kakko's and Kreider's goals, meanwhile, came courtesy of a Ranger power play that is 5-for-9 in those three games.
Still, they never could pull away on Sunday for even a two-goal lead, and Florida, which entered the game sixth in scoring in the NHL, got a goal and two assists from Evgenii Dadonov and a goal and one assist from linemate Aleksander Barkov. Ex-Blueshirt Brian Boyle forged the game's final tie in the third, while Vincent Trocheck, just back from a three-week injury absence, got the decider in the shootout right after Kakko had stylishly converted his first career attempt.
"Can't run and gun with a team like that," Kreider said afterward. "We just got away from what we were doing well over the course of our little winning streak."
"A different type of game, for sure," said Henrik Lundqvist, who took his third straight start after stopping 80 of 83 shots in winning the previous two. "It was a battle."
Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome each had two assists in the game, their first coming when they combined to set up Lindgren - stretching Panarin's point streak to eight games, and giving Strome points in nine of his last 10.
Lindgren started his own scoring play by darting down to the right-wing corner to keep a play alive; Strome got the puck from Panarin at the goal line, then found Lindgren cutting at the back door. The rookie blueliner roofed it from a sharp angle.
"It's about as happy as you can possibly be," said Lindgren, the 21-year-old acquired from Boston who was playing in his 10th NHL game. "I'm not an overly emotional guy, but scoring my first goal, I couldn't contain it. I was very, very happy, and seeing Stromer and the rest of the guys, how happy they were, it was definitely really cool."
"It was a heck of a shot, that's for sure," Quinn said. "I've just seen a level of confidence that I think he didn't have last year."
No one at that point in the game could have anticipated the back-and-forth that was to come.
"I liked the first 15 minutes. As the game was progressing I thought, 'This is how we're going to have to do it if we're going to have success against them,'" Quinn said. But he added that his team has a tendency to "get very pond hockey-ish at times."
"When we trade chances with teams like that, rarely are we ever going to get a point," he said. "Hopefully it's a learning opportunity for us to continue to get better and grow."
Kreider gave the Rangers their final lead, a 5-4 edge that came 1:25 before second intermission, redirecting Fox's shot that was tailor-made for a tip. The goal gave the Rangers a 2-for-4 night against the League's fourth-ranked penalty kill entering the game.
"My job's easy; it's just a good shot by Adam Fox," Kreider said. "Put the thing on a tee for me."
Boyle answered with a tip of Keith Yandle's drive 7:01 into the third, knotting the score for the fifth and final time. After the Rangers had numerous chances in the 3-on-3 overtime - "I thought we had it," Lundqvist said - and Lundqvist made a glove save on Barkov in the shootout to force a Round 3, Quinn sent out Kakko in a must-score spot. The 18-year-old coolly made an in-tight move to his backhand to beat Montembeault and extend the game.
"I like that he scored, and I felt pretty good about his chances," Quinn said. "With his skill set, I think that's a moment for him, and one that he certainly took advantage of."
Still, when Trocheck fired one home in the bottom half, the Rangers had to settle for the single point, and certainly they will hope to settle down the game when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at the Garden - remarkably, the Blueshirts' first Metropolitan Division home game of the season.
"A game like that, it was on a plate for us," Kreider said on Sunday. "We were up several times. You knew they were going to have to press a little bit to get their looks. If you play good D you're going to continue to get offense and probably be able to stretch out the lead a little bit.
"We need to recommit to playing the right way and playing the defensive side of things, especially with a team like Pittsburgh coming in a couple days."