CALGARY — The New York Rangers have been a perfect fit for speedy newcomer Michael Grabner.
Grabner’s team-leading eighth goal 6:32 into the first period gave New York the lead for good as the Rangers built up a four-goal cushion and cruised to a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
The goal came on an innocent-looking rush when his 40-foot wrister beat Brian Elliott on the glove side. In 15 games, Grabner is one shy of the nine goals he scored last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which came in 80 games.
“Got off to a good start, got some confidence going and that makes life a little bit easier,” said the 29-year-old Austrian, who signed as a free agent on July 1. “It’s been working in my favour the systems here, a lot of guys that can skate here, we’re trying to keep the game fast and that’s obviously my kind of style.”
The Rangers are the NHL’s highest scoring team with 62 goals and you can see why with all four lines producing a goal on Saturday.
“In the first two periods there was no doubt,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, when asked if he thought the Rangers were the better team, despite being outshot 36-28. “We were able to create a couple turnovers, counter attack quickly, and we were able to capitalize on our opportunities.”
Henrik Lundqvist had a shutout going until Micheal Ferland’s power-play goal at 11:12 of the third period, which snapped an 0-for-28 drought on home ice.
“It’s impressive to see how we create chances every game,” said Lundqvist. “Sometimes it’s tough against different lineups, different systems, but we’ve been able to create a lot of scoring chances. Even the games we haven’t scored a lot we’ve had a lot of chances to do so.”
Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich — who has goals in four straight games — also scored for New York (11-4-0). Winners of six of their last seven, the Rangers remain tied with Pittsburgh for first in the Metropolitan Division.
New York’s second stop on its four-game road trip is Sunday night in Edmonton.
Calgary (5-10-1) continues to struggle under new head coach Glen Gulutzan, having lost four in a row.
Gulutzan said the game started to unravel as soon as his club fell behind on Grabner’s goal.
“We’re fragile right now and to see that go in and spot them one right there when we thought we got off to a good start and had some energy in front of our home fans, it’s deflating,” said Gulutzan. “This is a really good club and we didn’t play near the game that we needed to play and that’s on us. That’s on us, that’s on the coaching staff and myself.”
The Flames have been particularly poor at home, having lost five of their last six at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The boos from the home crowd began halfway through the second period as two rookies — Vesey and Buchnevich — scored five minutes apart to open up a 4-0 lead.
They were also booed off the ice at the game’s conclusion.
“Not a good game,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “They came out, they had a team that we knew had a lot of speed and a lot of fire power up front. We weren’t hard enough, bottom line. They made us pay.”
Lundqvist improved his record to 8-4-0.
Elliott, who had 24 stops, saw his record fall to 3-8-0. One month into the season, he has matched his loss total from a year ago when he went 23-8-6 with St. Louis.
Notes: Kevin Hayes and Brad Skjei each had their six-game point streaks snapped for the Rangers… Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman was back in the line-up after being scratched the last four games… Calgary rookie LW Matthew Tkachuk (wrist) skated this morning, prior to practice. He’s considered day-to-day.