Tempe, Arizona. At home, on the road, or in the college yard, a Power Rangers game can change the course of the game — and that’s what happened Sunday night against the Coyotes at Mullet Arena.
Game-winning Mika Zipanegad scored from a stellar passing sequence with the man advantage to give the Rangers a 3-2 win in their first game inside the ASU fold that was finalized this month.
The overwhelming presence of Rangers fans in attendance meant the building resonated with the team’s celebratory goal song.
With the tie, 2-2, at the start of the third inning, duel chants of both teams echoed back and forth as the players took to the ice. And when Travis Boyd was called to step in to give the Rangers a game of strength, fans in blue rose to their feet.
Then, like a clockwork mechanism, Artemi Panarin passed to Chris Kreider, pinned to the top of the crease, before Kreider returned the ball to Zibanejad for an uncontested shot at 12:56 off the final frame.
“She’s winning games like she did tonight,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said of the best power play unit. “It was huge for us. We had a lot of good chances in the first half, five against five, but playing the power he scored [that] Excellent goal tonight and obviously won the match.”
There might have been dry heat and cactus outside, but there was a sea of blue that brought on a New York state of mind that made it feel like a home game for the Rangers. Native New Yorkers who have ventured out west for warmer weather, and those who have just traveled on this specific occasion, release “Let’s Go Rangers!” whenever they can. They even tapped into the rhythm of the college band present to sing their signature hymn “Potvin Sucks.”
And it got noisy, as one would imagine a 5,000 seat arena would be. From the $25 grandstand known as the Student Section of Hell and throughout the cramped hallway, it was impossible not to feel like you were back in college for one night.
“I mean, he should have been 70-30 Rangers fans, right?” Candre Miller said after the win that lifted Rangers to 5-3-2 this season. “This is pretty much a home game.”
Panarin celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday with a equalizer and two assists – his third game of the season with three points or more. He is the third Rangers player in the past 30 years to score three points on his birthday, joining Pavel Buchenevich and Wayne Gretzky. After that three-point effort, Banarin’s 16 points tied him up for third in the National Hockey League, while his 11 passes are good for a second place finish.
Having made the Rangers’ first goal in the second half from Alexis Lavrinier, Panarin made the match 2-2 later in the frame with a powerful shot from the corners.
Once they got their first power game of the night, about halfway through the first period, the Rangers found their step. In Arizona goalkeeper Conor Ingram’s brilliance with four shots, the supreme force unit was immaculate and led the offensive zone. This went through all three opportunities, and they took advantage when it mattered most.
“All of them have five exceptional players,” Lavrinier said of the first team. “When they move the disc, I don’t like to be in the PK on the other side. It’s fast. Everyone can shoot. Everyone can play. It’s really dangerous.”