By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Looking ahead to his Madison Square Garden debut on Thursday morning, Rangers rookie JT Miller said he'd be looking to do something to get himself and the home crowd into the game on his first shift. Other than that Miller said he just wanted to stay even-keeled and play a simple, yet solid, game.
When the lights went up Thursday night at The Garden, Miller delivered in storybook fashion, scoring on his first shift of the game, before adding a power play breakaway goal late in the second period, to help the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the Islanders.
Just 48 hours after his impressive NHL debut Tuesday night in New Jersey, the Rangers top pick in the 2011 draft made his much-anticipated Garden debut a memorable one by lighting the lamp just 89 seconds into the game. Miller collected a chip pass from fellow first-rounder Chris Kreider, skated in on Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov, and beat him with a left-wing shot to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, who returned to the lineup after missing three games due to a shoulder injury, fished the puck out of the net and presented it to the 19 year-old rookie after a group celebration in the corner.
Miller late scored a hugely important goal with 1:49 to play in the second period which provided the Blueshirts a 3-1 lead. After winning a defensive zone faceoff, Miller tore through center ice and accepted a perfect Ryan McDonagh pass for a breakaway against Nabokov. Miller's shot banked in off Nabokov's body, a power play goal---only the fourth scored all season by the Rangers.
In between Miller's heroics, the Rangers received a goal from Marian Gaborik---his team-leading sixth of the season---at 14:04 of the first period and surrendered one to the Isles John Tavares at 11:13 of the second period. They also saw an apparent Taylor Pyatt wraparound goal waved off because the whistle had blown, and a Matt Gilroy slap shot catch iron, both in the middle 20 minutes.
And the Rangers---who played once again without injured defenseman Dan Girardi, and who saw Brian Boyle scratched for the first time in three seasons---also received superb goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, who was sharp throughout, and simple spectacular in gloving Matt Martin's deflection along the goal line in the first period and robbing Michael Grabner on a shorthanded breakaway with a right-pad save late in the second. Lundqvist finished with 27 saves.
The Rangers excelled on the penalty kill, as well, denying all five power play opportunities the Islanders had. Jeff Halpern was a standout on the kill all night long, in particular with a dazzling display with Darroll Powe in the box early in the third period. And Callahan went down and smothered a Mark Streit slap shot during an earlier penalty kill, showing little concern for his recently-injured left shoulder in the process.
McDonagh closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal, his first of the season, with 2:08 left to play in the third period.