Connor Mackey certainly made an impression when he stepped into the Rangers’ lineup last minute in the final game before the All-Star break against the Senators.
The 27-year-old blueliner sparked the team by dropping the gloves with Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk.
To most, it may have overshadowed the fact that Zac Jones also had a strong game in just his third contest in the Rangers’ previous 10 at the time.
But not to head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I really liked what Mackey did, and I expressed that to him after the game when we were sending him back for the break,” Laviolette said before the Rangers beat the Avalanche, 2-1, in overtime Monday night at the Garden. “I thought he played a heck of a game for us. I also thought Jonesy, who has been here all year, played a heck of a game. I thought he and [Erik Gustafsson] were excellent with their game and the way that they played it. We got a guy that’s been here all year and is finally getting an opportunity to play.
“He’s been a really good soldier for us and works hard every day. Great disposition. Great work ethic. Great teammate. Positive attitude. He just came off a monster game of his own and it didn’t make sense to jump the order.”
That is why Jones got the call again to fill in for Rangers captain Jacob Trouba, who served the final game of his two-game suspension Monday night.
The UMass product returned to his post on the left side of Gustafsson on the Rangers’ bottom pair, while K’Andre Miller teamed up with Braden Schneider in Trouba’s absence.
The Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox pairing remained intact.
Jones recorded two blocks and one takeaway in a season-high 18:07 of ice time in the win.
Artemi Panarin scored his 31st goal of the season in the third period Monday night.
He joins Chris Kreider (33 in 2021-22) and Rick Nash (33 in 2014-15) as the only three Rangers players to have scored as many through 50 games in the past 25 years.
In his 757th career start, Jonathan Quick improved to 11-4-2 on the season and tied Gilles Meloche for the 30th most starts in NHL history.
“Really just giving us a chance to win,” Mika Zibanejad said. “That’s something that we get every night no matter what. Quickie has been great, he was unbelievable tonight.”
Monday was Black History Night at the Garden, where a special national anthem was sung by Jermaine Paul and a $10,000 donation was made recognizing local heroes “making a difference in our community, among several additional initiatives.”