Like it has throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, sports rarely stop regardless of current events. That was no different on Tuesday night when the New York Rangers had to play a hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights just hours after eight people were killed and another 11 were injured when a man drove a pickup truck down the bike path of the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan in what was later deemed to be an act of terror.
Tragedies like these, which have happened all too often in the past few years, put things into perspective, making the Rangers’ tough start to the 2017-18 season and Tuesday night’s game against the expansion Knights seem oh so trivial.
The NHL’s newest franchise is no stranger to dealing with moments like this despite their expansion status after a lone gunman killed 59 and injured over 400 others after firing on a crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on Oct. 1.
But sports have a tendency to heal and the Rangers were able to get the minds of 17,294 patrons at Madison Square Garden away from the real world for two-and-a-half hours as they defeated Vegas 6-4 to pick up their second-straight win to end their month on a much-needed high note after starting the season 2-7-2.
While the Blueshirts put in a solid effort against a Golden Knights team that saw their five-game winning streak snapped on Monday night by the Islanders, the events of what transpired just a few hours earlier on Chambers Street were still fresh in their mind.
“A lot of emotion with what happened in Tribeca. A lot of our players live there,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “I won’t name names, but I heard a couple of guys talking about it before the game. They were talking about how we have to put this together and get going…it was an emotional moment with what happened today, but our guys handled it well.”
They did just that, overturning a 4-2 deficit by scoring four unanswered goals in the third period, ensuring that New Yorkers went home with something to smile about.
“It didn’t really matter who scored, I’m super happy that we got the win, especially with the situation from earlier today,” center Mika Zibanejad, who did score in the third period, said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. We talked about that; it was bigger than the two points today. We were trying to play for the whole city and for all of the families involved, and we were able to do that.”
The events hit a little too close to home for star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was tasked to prepare for a game he would start despite his family living near the area.
“It was emotional for me before the game. I talked to the group a little bit about the importance of the game,” he said. “For me, my family is in that area every day and coming to the game not knowing if they were safe or not, it was not a good feeling.”
They were indeed safe as Lundqvist made 30 saves on the night in the win.
“It was about time to get a win here, especially at home on a day like this where maybe hockey is not that important,” Mats Zuccarello, who tallied one of the goals, said. “We wanted to give everyone a good feeling.”