Rangers’ Artemi Panarin could net 500th point vs. Blackhawks

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There was a point in time when Artemi Panarin got pregame jitters before facing the Blackhawks, the team that gave him his NHL chance and signed him as an undrafted free agent in April 2015.

“I remember in the beginning, when I played against Chicago for the first time, I was really shaky,” he said after the Rangers defeated Chicago 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. “Right now, I have full confidence — and I played not too bad.”

That’s a modest analysis. The Rangers star winger recorded his fourth multipoint performance in his last six games and his eighth of the season on Saturday, assisting on two goals in the second period and scoring one of his own in the final frame to secure the win over the Blackhawks.

After sending a no-look pass across the zone right to the stick of Ryan Strome, who had a wide-open net for the Rangers’ game-tying, power-play goal in the second, Panarin then put the shot on net that led to Adam Fox’s 2-1 score later in the period. To wrap up his three-point effort, Panarin buried a loose rebound from the left circle in the final frame.

Artemi Panarin scores the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Chicago.
JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK PO

Panarin has been collecting points all season, having played just eight games without one. But in the last 10 games or so, he has taken it to another level. Over that span, Panarin has collected five goals and eight assists for an average of 1.3 points and nearly four shots per game.

He is one point away from 500 career NHL points. Coincidentally, Panarin notched his first career point in his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in a home game against the Rangers in October 2015. He will have a chance to reach 500 when the Rangers play the Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday.

With a point in 12 of the Rangers’ 16 wins this season, Panarin is also the only player in the league with 26 points and 24 takeaways.

“I thought the first 10 games, we didn’t have a good start at all,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “I think ever since then, he’s been a real good player for us every night. Making those plays and making the big plays when we need it. He’s been outstanding. He’s a lot of fun, I enjoy being around and him and he’s always smiling.

Artemi Panarin played for the Blackhawks from 2015-17.
Paul J. Bereswill

“When you see that, you know he’s going to have a good game.”

Since the Rangers signed Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract in July 2019, the 30-year-old has already become the franchise’s all-time leader in points per game (1.34) and assists per game (0.92).

With Panarin in the lineup, the Rangers have amassed a record of 75-45-14. He has a point in 66 of those 75 wins.

Asked what was leading to all the Rangers’ success this season, Panarin pointed to good energy in the locker room and off the ice as well. He also noted that the team is playing with confidence at the moment.

A major part of the Rangers’ strong start, however, has been the uptick in Panarin’s play.

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