Sat, 27 Feb 2021

Alexis Lafreniere, Rangers aim to turn tide vs. Islanders

Field Level Media
16 Jan 2021, 10:55 GMT+10

Alexis Lafreniere didn't exactly get a warm welcome to the NHL.

The first overall pick in the 2020 draft watched his New York Rangers fall behind early and fail to recover in a 4-0 loss to the visiting New York Islanders on Thursday night in the season opener.

The teams meet again Saturday atMadison Square Garden.

Lafreniere had one shot on goal and was a minus-1 in 15:21 of ice time and admitted he was nervous before the game.

"But after a couple shifts, (I) felt better," he said. "I was trying to work as hard as I can. Obviously a tough first game, but we'll get better and we'll work on our game and try to bounce back Saturday."

Anders Lee scored two goals and Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 shots to become the first Islanders goaltender to post a shutout in the season opener since Chico Resch in 1976.

"I always have confidence in this team," Varlamov said. "I think we have a great group of guys, a great team. Every time I play, I know I have a chance to win because I know who I'm playing with. Every time I play, the guys give me a chance to win."

The Islanders made it easy on their goalie, taking the lead just 2:33 into the game on Brock Nelson's power-play goal.

Lee made it 2-0 at 3:52 of the first, converting a two-on-one break, and Mathew Barzal scored at 13:31 for a three-goal advantage.

"I think we just wanted to start on the right foot, get to our game early and find that momentum by playing the way we need to play," Lee said. "I think we did a good job of that. It was a result of a good camp, everyone being ready for (Thursday) and 'Varly' playing a good game."

Varlamov said he appreciated it.

"We had a great start, scored a quick couple of goals and that set the tone," he said. "It's always easier to play like that, when you score first."

Lee scored again with a redirection of a pass from Jordan Eberle for a power-play goal at 14:54 of the second. The Islanders were 2 for 8 with the man advantage.

"They did a good job in a lot of areas and we certainly weren't good in many, if any at all," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "We've got to be quick learners because we play them Saturday and it might be a good lesson, a reminder for a bunch of guys that probably don't instinctively have it in their hockey DNA to play the way that we needed to (Thursday). The good news for us is a bunch of guys that were here last year did it for long stretches of time, and we've got to do that starting on Saturday."

Islanders coach Barry Trotz was understandably pleased with the result, but denied it was any kind of "statement" game.

"It's the first game of the season against a rival," Trotz said. "We know how important points are in a shortened season. We wanted to come out and play well. I thought we had a really good start. ... I liked our game, but there's another level for us."

--Field Level Media

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