The Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Bruins at the Garden on Tuesday night, placed in context, came against a club that might have had a handful of players in the lineup who will make the varsity.
Nevertheless, the effort and attention to detail were encouraging, as was the work of the Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome-Kaapo Kakko unit, which was on for all three goals, one apiece scored by the wingers and one by defenseman Anthony Bitetto.
Panarin seemed as sharp as he would normally be in November or December, setting up Bitetto with a gorgeous no-look cross-ice backhand feed before scoring the 3-2 goal on a wrist shot in alone at 19 minutes of the second period.
“I work a lot on cardio and finishing, as well,” Panarin said through an interpreter when asked what he wants to accomplish in camp. “Finishing setups and passes like you saw today.
“I always find it important to score even in the preseason games because you can’t just not try in the preseason and expect to win during the season itself.”
Kakko, who has gotten stronger, but appears leaner at the same time, scored his goal by going to the net and backhanding one in from the right porch off a deflected Panarin shot. The Finn was assertive in ripping off five shots in 17:09 that included 1:58 of work on the penalty-kill unit.
“I was thinking about [shooting the puck] before the game,” Kakko said. “That was my goal.”
The Rangers will need to replace the penalty-kill minutes logged a year ago by Pavel Buchnevich, who logged 2:19 per, second among forwards to Mika Zibanejad’s 2:22. Barclay Goodrow will pick up minutes and Sammy Blais is likely in line for a try, but so might be Kakko, who has barely done it either here or in Finland.
“We’ve talked about young players maturing and that’s something he should be able to do,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “He played well, banged in a nice goal going to the net. That’s where you score your goals with guys like that who get to the net with Panarin and Strome getting the puck there for him.”
Kakko got 136:18 of ice time with Panarin and Strome last season while Colin Blackwell got 195:39 as the Rangers looked for a replacement for Jesper Fast. Panarin was asked on Tuesday what he looks for in a right wing.
“A good one-timer,” Panarin said in English, winking.
The Rangers were far more connected than they were in Sunday’s 4-0 defeat to the Islanders, getting diligent work on the boards from the Blais-Kevin Rooney-Ryan Reaves unit.
“I told our team it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, it’s what we’re going to try to do to get our systems in place and play the way I want you to play and the way they want to play,” Gallant said. “I thought the first period was excellent for that, the second period wasn’t as good, but I was real happy overall.”
Igor Shesterkin was sharp in 30:21 of work in goal, allowing one goal on 12 shots before he was replaced by Tyler Wall, who surrendered one goal on 16 shots in 29:15. … Blais acted as the net-front presence on the first power-play unit that had Strome and Kakko up front with Panarin and K’Andre Miller at the points. … The Blueshirts are at New Jersey on Friday before facing the Bruins in Boston the following night.
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