Rangers rookies Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller got their first taste of the NHL — and it was sour.
Igor Shesterkin, who is technically a rookie despite the 12-game regular-season cameo he had last season, would probably say the same of his first opening night start as he allowed four goals in the Rangers’ shutout loss to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
But head coach David Quinn said he wants his young players to learn from losses like this, it just may be coming a lot sooner than he thought.
“It’s a great learning lesson for a young player to play against a team like that,” Quinn said on a Zoom call after 4-0 loss. “[The Islanders] epitomize what a pro is at this level. It’s not so much going out and making a great play, it’s playing smart hockey and sometimes you come off from a shift and nothing happens, that’s a good shift.
“Unfortunately for us right now, after one night, that’s not how we want to approach it but I think it was a great lesson for those young guys.”
Miller, who made his NHL debut on the second defensive pairing with Jacob Trouba, recorded one shot in just under 14 minutes of ice time. He committed a turnover early in the second period that left Shesterkin out to dry as Islanders captain Anders Lee converted on a two-on-one rush for a 2-0 score.
“Obviously, the National Hockey League is a tough league to win in,” Miller said. “So I think just this first game is a good example of that, that every game is going to be a battle. You’ve got to play the full 60 minutes and hopefully make it out on the other side.”
Lafreniere had a similar showing to Miller, with one shot on goal in roughly 15 ½ minutes of ice time, primarily on the third line with Filip Chytil and Julin Gauthier. In a game where rookie mistakes were being committed throughout the lineup, Lafreniere was no exception when he played the puck while making a change and got the Rangers called for a too many men on the ice penalty toward the end of the first period.
The 2020 first-overall pick committed his second penalty of the night when he was called for hooking at 14:13 of the second period, which led to a Jordan Eberle power-play goal roughly 50 seconds later.
“For sure, lot of nerves,” Lafreniere said. “After a couple shifts, [I] felt better. Trying to work as hard as I can, obviously tough first game. But we’ll get better and we’ll work on our game and try to bounce back on Saturday.”
The Rangers were 0-for-3 on the power play, but their eight penalties allowed the Islanders to record two power-play goals.