What a difference a day made — or nearly made — for the Rangers.
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One night after laying an egg in their season opener in Washington, the Blueshirts played their home opener at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and looked like a totally different team.
It didn’t translate into a win, but at least they earned their first point of the season, securing it when they rallied from a two-goal deficit to force overtime before Miro Heiskanen ended it with a goal at 1:38 of overtime to give Dallas a 3-2 victory.
Naturally, the Rangers weren’t happy about the loss, but coach Gerard Gallant, working his first home game behind the bench for the Rangers, said he knew his team wouldn’t collapse the way it did Wednesday in the 5-1 loss to Washington. He said he knew the players would pick up their intensity before a sellout crowd.
“I think after they scored that second goal, we got some good momentum after that and . . . we’re pretty dominant there for eight or nine minutes, and got right back in the hockey game,’’ Gallant said. “We simplified things. We got pucks back to the point, and got a couple of deflection goals that went in the net.
“You can’t get the cute goals every night, but when you work hard like that and get to the tough areas and the blue paint, you’re going to score some goals with that.’’
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Playing on the second night of a back-to-back against a rested Stars team, the Rangers started off a little sluggish and managed only four shots on goal in the first period (Dallas had eight). And they fell behind 1-0 with 34.1 seconds left in the period when Dallas rookie forward Jacob Peterson beat Igor Shesterkin on a two-on-one break for his first NHL goal.
It was the second straight night a rookie playing in his first NHL game had scored against the Rangers. Washington forward Hendrix Lapierre did it Wednesday.
The Stars made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Radek Faksa at 6:11 of the second period with Ryan Reaves serving a boarding penalty.
But after that, the Rangers started to pick things up.
Adam Fox, the Jericho native who was magnificent throughout the game, took a pass from his defense partner, Ryan Lindgren, down in the lower part of the left-wing circle. He curled his way up the boards and out along the blue line and flipped a wrist shot through traffic that hit the shin pad of Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell and got by Braden Holtby at 8:43. Lindell was battling with Kaapo Kakko in front of the net.
After that goal, it was as if a switch had been turned on for the Rangers, who started putting intense pressure on Holtby until eventually, at 15:54, Chris Kreider tied it 2-2 when he tipped in a shot from the left point by K’Andre Miller.
It was the second goal of the season for Kreider, who scored the Rangers’ only goal in Wednesday’s loss.
Holtby, who stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced, left the game midway through the third period, returning to the locker room for an undisclosed issue. He was replaced in goal by Anton Khudobin, who made six saves in his 13:02 of ice time. Five of those came on a Rangers’ power play. The best of those was one he made on Kreider on the doorstep
Shesterkin, in net one night after Alexandar Georgiev started the season opener in Washington, made 23 saves. Asked after the game what he saw on Heiskanen’s winner, he said, “I need to stop that shot.’’