Wheeler and Kakko lead Rangers to 5-2 win over Kraken at MSG
NEW YORK (AP) — Blake Wheeler had two goals, Kaapo Kakko scored in his second game back from a long injury absence and the New York Rangers beat the Seattle Kraken 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves as the Rangers won their second straight after four consecutive losses. Vincent Trocheck and Erik Gustafsson scored in the first period for New York.
“That was important for the team. A huge win," Shesterkin said before the Rangers head west on a four-game trip to face Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.
Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann had the Seattle goals.
The Rangers were coming off a 2-1 home win over Washington on Sunday to snap their skid. Seattle's nine-game winning streak ended with a 3-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday.
Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox each had two assists for the Rangers, who are 5-0-1 against the Kraken — an expansion franchise in 2021-22 — and have outscored them 23-12.
New York is 15-6-0 halfway through its home schedule and 17-0-1 when scoring four or more goals this season.
The Rangers also improved to 13-5-1 against Western Conference teams and 8-2-0 versus Pacific Division opponents.
“In the second period we had great opportunities, we just didn't execute,'' Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. ”We had a lot of jump, but guys who played a lot of minutes last night also had to play big minutes tonight, and that wears on you."
The 37-year-old Wheeler, former captain of the Winnipeg Jets, scored twice for the second time this season, his 16th in the NHL and first with the Rangers.
“Down the stretch as we head towards the playoffs, we need everyone contributing,'' Wheeler said. ”We all have to chip in."
Trocheck opened the scoring on the power play at 8:22 of the first, redirecting a hard pass from Artemi Panarin past Kraken netminder Chris Driedger for his 14th goal. Fox also assisted.
Trocheck has 14 points, including six goals, in his last nine games. Panarin leads New York with 60 points, including 27 goals.
The Rangers have scored at least one power-play goal in 13 of their last 18 games.
Eberle tied it at 10:41 of the first with a power-play goal of his own. McCann and Oliver Bjorkstrand assisted.
Gustafsson put the Rangers back in front at 11:09 with an unassisted goal, his fourth.
Wheeler made it 3-1 with a deflection at 12:32 of the second. Jonny Brodzinski and Braden Schneider had assists.
Kakko increased the lead with his third goal of the season and first since Nov. 20 at Dallas. He returned for Sunday’s win over Washington after missing 21 games with a lower-body injury sustained against Buffalo on Nov. 27.
Kakko whipped the puck past Driedger after getting a backhand pass from Zibanejad, who was streaking down left wing. Chris Kreider also assisted.
Kakko said his first game back — playing with linemates Zibanejad and Kreider — was a bit of a physical battle. But the 22-year-old Finnish forward said he felt better during his second game in three days.
“Always when you score a goal, it feels good,'' he said. ”Our line played a good game."
McCann made it 4-2 with a power-play goal at 14:24 of the third, his team-best 17th of the season.
Wheeler scored his second of the night and seventh of the season into an empty net at 17:22.
“Going into the game, we were harping that we couldn't give them odd-man chances because they have a lot of speed and make you pay on those,'' Wheeler said of the Kraken. ”Fortunately for us, our goaltender is world-class and he made a couple of big saves."
Rangers: Visit the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night to start a four-game trip.
Kraken: Play at Edmonton on Thursday to complete a six-game trip, their longest of the season.