The New York Rangers‘ line of Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello was one of the main reasons why they were able to beat the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-1 score. What is actually shocking to hear is that head coach Alain Vigneault told the media that those three were actually benched at the end of the first period for failing to keep the puck in the Hurricanes’ zone and were unable to generate any offense.
Vigneault followed up his post-game comments by saying how glad he was that Stepan, Kreider, and Zuccarello responded to their benching. That line responded by doing exactly what they have been doing in the previous few games, which is swarm the net, keep the puck deep in the opposing team’s zone and generate many scoring chances. This to three goals, all of them scored by the previously goal-less Stepan.
Going into the game, Stepan was starting to generate scoring chances for himself, but was just failing to bury the puck in the net like so many other Rangers players. This game was a completely different story as he picked up the second hat trick of his career, the first of which happened in his first-ever game in the NHL.
While Kreider and Zuccarello did not score any goals, you cannot discredit what they accomplished. None of Stepan’s goals would have been a reality if it wasn’t for Kreider and Zuccarello’s hard work and responding to their benching just as well as Stepan.
This line showed the Rangers’ coaching staff and the fans that they can be dangerous when on their game. When they are struggling and off their game, all of us now know that Vigneault can push their buttons and have them come out and prove themselves instead of shying away from adversity.
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