Kaapo Kakko’s goal propels Rangers to comeback win over Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Rangers had luck on their side.

With power-play goals in the third period from Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers made up for a lackluster game against the lowly Coyotes with a 3-2 win Wednesday night at Gila Rivera Arena in front of a crowd of 11,380 that featured mostly fans in blue.

After Phil Kessel was called for interference, Zibanejad sniped one from the top of the left circle to knot the game 2-2 with 5:46 left in regulation. The Coyotes then gifted the Rangers another late man-advantage when they were called for too many men on the ice, which Kakko capitalized on for his second goal of the night.

It just wasn’t the Rangers’ night, which somehow took a turn for the worse when star winger Artemi Panarin went to the locker room for an unknown reason early in the second period and never returned. Panarin logged 1:52 on one shift in the middle frame before leaving.

The Rangers did not immediately disclose the reason for Panarin’s early exit.

Kaapo Kakko (left) accepts congratulations from Mika Zibanejad (center) and Chris Kreider after scoring one of his two goals in the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Coyotes.
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Head coach Gerard Gallant shuffled the forward lines after sticking with the same combinations for a lengthy stretch. Filip Chytil was scratched for the first time since March 1, 2019. Without Chytil, Barclay Goodrow was bumped up to the third line and Greg McKegg centered the fourth unit.

Chytil, who has three goals and four assists in 25 games, was a healthy scratch a few times early in the David Quinn regime. While Chytil was a much younger player at that time, Quinn scratched the Czech in the name of accountability and development. It wouldn’t be the first time Gallant sent a message to one of his young players, after the coach briefly relegated Alexis Lafreniere to the fourth line earlier this season.

The Rangers were flat through the opening 20 minutes, losing puck battles and struggling to enter the offensive zone at times, which resulted in a 1-0 deficit heading into the second period. Chalk it up to it being their second game in as many nights after facing an energy-draining Avalanche team, but the Coyotes are a rebuilding squad that had the fewest wins in the NHL entering Wednesday’s game.

There were moments where the Rangers made Arizona look like a much better team than it actually is.

The Rangers saw much more offensive-zone time in the second, outshooting Arizona 15-8. And Kakko put the Rangers on the board at 10:40 of the middle frame, batting home a rebound off a shot from Zibanejad to knot the game 1-1.

Coyotes top-line winger Clayton Keller, however, regained the lead for his team with a backhander at 8:47 of the third.

Keith Kinkaid, making his season debut in net with Igor Shesterkin still on injured reserve, stifled a breakaway opportunity for Coyotes center Barrett Hayton. But Ryan Lindgren was called for slashing Hayton to put Arizona on the power play, which was negated when Travis Boyd tripped up Adam Fox.

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