After a week off, the Rangers return to action Saturday afternoon when they host Edmonton in a matchup of unbeaten teams.
New York is seeking its first 3-0 start since the 2015-16 season after starting the season with a 6-4 home win over Winnipeg on Oct. 3 and a 4-1 win in Ottawa two nights later. Among the reasons for New York’s first two wins are the performances of Mika Zibanejad and free-agent acquisition Artemi Panarin.
Zibanejad has four goals and four assists so far. He had a goal and three assists in the season opener and had a hat trick and an assist a week ago.
Zibanejad was named one of the league’s three stars of the week Monday and is the first NHL player to get at least eight points in the first two games of a season since Jaromir Jagr for Pittsburgh in 1995-96. He also joined Rod Gilbert (1976-77) as the second player in team history to do so and was the first NHL player to have consecutive games with at least four points in his team’s first two games since John Cullen in 1990-91 with Pittsburgh.
“I can’t really explain what’s going on right now,” Zibanejad said after getting his third career hat trick. “I’m playing with good teammates and unbelievable players out there. I’m getting a lot of chances and now they’re going in so I’ll try to take advantage as that as much as I can.”
Panarin enters with two goals and two assists in his first two games as Zibanejad’s linemate on New York’s top line.
Edmonton has won three one-goal games and scored 18 goals in its first 4-0 start since 2008-09. Edmonton is seeking its first 5-0 start since 1985-86, when Wayne Gretzky piled up 215 points.
Edmonton’s latest win occurred Thursday in New Jersey when Leon Draisaitl scored the only goal in the shootout after Connor McDavid scored the tying goal late in the third period. James Neal also scored after getting four Tuesday at the New York Islanders. His seven goals match his total from last season with Calgary.
McDavid, Draisaitl, and Neal have combined for 12 goals and 25 points so far. Neal’s seven goals in the first four games set a team record, breaking the mark of six held by Gretzky and Glenn Anderson.
“We’re a resilient group,” Draisaitl said after the Oilers faced a deficit in their fourth straight game while being outshot 31-22 Thursday. “We said that before the season, we’re not going to stop until it’s over. I’m happy to be part of this group, I think we’re building our game in the right direction.
“We couldn’t really find our A game for the whole night, but it’s great to see that we can find different ways to win games.”
Edmonton overcame three deficits Thursday, overcame four deficits last Saturday against Los Angeles and trailed once in their other wins. The Oilers joined the 2005-06 Nashville Predators and 1988-89 Kings as the third team in NHL history to overcome a deficit to start a season with four straight wins.
New York is 5-1-1 in the teams’ past seven meetings. Last season, Edmonton claimed a pair of one-goal wins as McDavid scored the game-winner Oct. 13 in New York and Draisaitl scored 35 seconds into overtime March 11 in Edmonton.
–Field Level Media