Photo Credit: New York Daily News
With Shesterkin back between the pipes, the Blueshirts got off to a fast start thanks to the birthday boy Pavel Buchnevich. After the Devils tilted the ice early, Artemi Panarin sauced a perfect pass over to Buchnevich to give the Rangers the early 1-0 lead.
Photo Credit: bignewsnetwork.com
Photo Credit: San Diego Tribune
Gray hairs were growing on kids’ day at the Garden. Back-to-back goals from P.K. Subban and Yegor Sharangovich cut the Rangers’ lead to a skinny goal. The Rangers had relied on their offense in their 4-2-0 start against the Devils in this season where teams only play regional rivals. It was the Rangers’ young defense and goaltending that held off the Devils’ barrage in the final frame. Shesterkin made 10 saves on 12 shots while the defense came up with six blocked shots.
The defensive effort led to the ultimate birthday gift for Buchnevich. In the final minutes, Lindy Ruff pulled goaltender Aaron Dell for the extra attacker. Mika Zibanejad gift-wrapped a pass which Buchnevich deposited into the empty net to complete his first career hat trick. Another empty netter from Kreider sealed a 6-3 victory for the Boys in Blue.
Birthday hat tricks are a nice present to give yourself, but there is a greater gift Buchnevich could receive for his 26th birthday: a contract extension. Buchnevich has stepped up this season with 40 points in 44 games on 19 goals and 21 assists all while being a +13.
A restricted free agent at season’s end it would be wise of the Rangers to keep Buchnevich at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza for years to come. Let us not forget to give credit to coach David Quinn for Buchnevich’s development. Since Quinn took the helm in 2018, the 23-year-old left-winger has seen increases in ice time and points.
Photo Credit: blueshirtbanter.com
Wouldn’t you know it, Buchnevich’s birthday pixie dust spread to his line mate Mika Zibanejad, who was celebrating his 28th year around the sun. The fourth and final game was in Newark on Sunday with the Rangers looking for the sweep. With the game tied 3-3 with three minutes remaining Zibanejad snapped home a birthday goal of his own on the power play to lead the Rangers to a 5-3 victory.
The Rangers’ opponent those days? The Islanders, so any pre or post birthday heroics from Kreider would be crucial in helping the Rangers snag a playoff spot in the East Division.