K’Andre Miller’s epic goal stands out in Rangers’ sixth straight win


PHILADELPHIA — K’Andre Miller has a few breakaway moves, but maybe not one exactly like the one he pulled out in the second period on Saturday.

This was (deep breath): Exit the penalty box, go to the top of the Rangers zone, chip the puck past Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim, zoom around him, cut into the middle of the ice entering the Flyers zone, get clipped by Sanheim, go down, get back up, backhand, forehand, tuck around Carter Hart’s right pad.

Miller’s goal celebration, with both palms facing upward as if to say, did you all just see that? really said it all. It was only Miller’s 14th career goal but he can add it to a sizzle reel that matches any NHL defenseman’s best in the last three seasons.

“He had one like that against Florida last year,” head coach Gerard Gallant noted. Similar, but without the perfectly executed trip/stand up/get back to the breakaway thing he did on Saturday to make it 2-1 Rangers. They never trailed after that in a 6-3 win that wasn’t a blowout but was, like a few of these six straight wins the Rangers have put together, just good enough to grab two points and keep forging ahead in the Eastern Conference standings.

“Shesty (goaltender Igor Shesterkin) lets me work on that one, though it doesn’t go in as much on him,” Miller said. “It was a fun experience, it kind of happened so quick I think I blacked out a little bit. … It’s kind of a blur and then I’m cellying (celebrating), trying to watch it again (on the video board). So it was fun.”

There was plenty of fun to be had in this one against a Flyer team that’s now 3-12-5 in their last 20 games. Ex-Ranger Kevin Hayes, the Flyers’ leading scorer this season, was a healthy scratch. Lukas Sedlak, a decent fourth-line contributor, left the team on Saturday to head home to the Czech Republic.

And things are bad enough that Rangers fans overran the Wells Fargo Center, booing former Ranger Tony DeAngelo every time he touched the puck on Saturday and closing the night with a very loud “Let’s go Rangers!” chant.

For the visitors, there was Jaroslav Halak giving up an early softie to James van Riemsdyk but looking perhaps the best he’s looked in a Ranger uniform through three straight Flyer power plays early in the second, the last of which preceded Miller’s goal. There were two goals from the Artemi PanarinMika Zibanejad-Barclay Goodrow line, both off tape-to-tape passes across the Flyers zone — the first was Goodrow to Panarin, the second Zibanejad to Goodrow.

Goodrow’s presence on that top line these last few games hasn’t exactly given the fanbase the warm and fuzzies but he showed a fair bit of skill on Saturday along with his usual forechecking presence. That line had some struggles against the Leafs on Thursday but all three forwards were on their game, for the most part, leaving aside Panarin’s weak backhand pass on a late second-period power play that sent Scott Laughton away for a short-handed goal.

“We played one and a half periods together, then one game so it can be hard to ask us to understand how we want to play it (together),” Zibanejad said. “How do we talk about it? We play a couple periods together and then maybe (the lines) change the next game, so why should we talk about it at all? But we’re just trying to play to each other’s strengths and make it as easy as possible out there.”

Gallant leaned a bit more on the Chris KreiderVincent TrocheckJimmy Vesey line, which got the most five-on-five ice time Saturday. That line produced a key goal in the third, with Trocheck flagging down a clearing attempt along the boards and Vesey spinning and beating Hart to make it 4-2. It was Vesey’s third goal in two games. All 12 forwards got at least 10 minutes and Vitali Kravtsov, getting a second straight game on the fourth line (this time in place of Julien Gauthier), did not look out of place.

Jacob Trouba made a couple of good defensive plays, including breaking up a play in the defensive zone and sending his first goal of the season trickling down toward an empty net with 2:08 to go. He had the most shots on goal (89) without scoring of any NHL player this season until that one, which was followed by an awarded goal to Ryan Lindgren. That was also his first of the year after Kaapo Kakko was hooked from behind trying to chase down Lindgren’s attempt on the empty net.

Miller hadn’t had such a great start to the season. Some of that was surely due to Trouba’s struggles through the first two months (and some of it still ongoing), but Miller has asserted himself more in these last six games than he had all season. No coincidence he has six points in that span and his 15 points put him in the top 40 for D-men this year.

“He’s using all his strengths and it’s great to see,” Zibanejad said. “I think it stems from his defensive plays. That’s how he gets that chance today. It’s confidence for everyone that plays a sport but especially so for a young guy. He’s been playing really well.”

(Photo of  K’Andre Miller: Eric Hartline / USA Today)


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