NEW YORK – Before stepping onto the ice at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Candre Miller received an email from his mother, Amy Sokoloski.
Then, after scoring the season’s most clutch goals in a 2-1 overtime win over the Dallas Stars, he gasped as he recalled her pre-game message.
“She gave me a lot of motivation,” Miller said with tears in his eyes.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old attorney spoke to lohud.com, part of the USA TODAY network, about “what this year means for me, my career, and my family.”
He mentions pending restricted free agency, with a new deal looming this summer. (If not sooner) and he’s been refreshingly honest about his desire to earn as much as possible to help his loved ones.
Sokoloski, who raised him as a single mother, is at the top of that list.
When asked about her mother’s influence, Miller said, “I couldn’t name one.” I think it’s about being there without you, in a game like this you know she’s not on the stand but you feel her presence and that’s what a mother-son relationship is all about. We’ve grown really close over the years. It’s a special bond.
If Miller keeps playing like this, he should have no trouble getting the deal he’s dreamed of.
Thursday’s goal, which crossed the line with 0.9 seconds left in regulation, extended his points streak to five games in a row. He posted 7 points in that span, the highest of 23 (5 goals and 18 assists) in a season.It’s already a career-high with 39 games left.
“The talent is there,” said Adam Fox. “It’s scary when he’s playing with confidence. He’s a big, fast kid — I don’t think I can talk about that — but when he puts it all together like that, it’s scary. It’s fun to watch. He’s blossomed into a really good defense and said, “He’s been an important contributor to us. We’ve seen it so far.He’s an important player for us.Obviously the sky is the limit.”
The Rangers (24-12-7) were close to shutout for the third time this season in a spectacular performance.
It started with Artemi Panarin’s shot and rebound causing confusion in front of the net. Vincent Trocheck tapped the puck back to his Miller as the blueshirts fought desperately for one more shot. His first shot was blocked, but he stayed in play and hit a second try by Stars goalkeeper Jake Ettinger just before time expired.
“I turned around again when I picked up the puck for the second time and Ettinger was just standing there,” Miller said. “It didn’t seem like he really knew where the puck was, but when he realized where it was, it was already behind the net. Guess I didn’t have enough time. It was an easy shot at the net, but the boys screened and got the puck back and gave it another chance.
“It was kind of a vortex of emotions.”
He was on the ice alongside Rangers’ best defense and Norris Trophy contender Fox in a late-game arrangement favored by head coach Gerald Gallant.
He said it was a direct result of Miller’s surge in play.
“That’s definitely what he does,” Gallant said. “The attack he brought in and he scored some really incredible goals for us, so put it out. That’s[from Fox’s usual partner Ryan Lindgren]what I love the way Lindy plays, but when you lose a goal, there’s no reason not to let it out.”
This sent the game to OT, and it was Fox’s turn to take on the role of hero.
Just 1:16 into the extra period, he completed his comeback with a backhand finish, sending the MSG crowd into a frenzy.
Panarin and Mika Zibanejad kept possession with a shot at Ettinger in a relentless effort towards goal.
“It was kind of a scramble,” said Fox. “I was hoping one of them could get it to me. , I took it to my backhand and put it on the other side.”
After spending a year and a half together, Barkley Goodrow earned Gallant’s confidence by working through the pain and playing any line-up the coach asked him to.
He willingly sacrificed his body, did dirty work, and never complained about his role.
As a result of that team-first attitude, Goodrow’s leash is naturally longer than most of his Rangers teammates. However, for his second time in three games, an uncharacteristic mistake occurred at the crucial moment.
An ill-timed line change led to Dallas’ lone goal, nearly costing the Blueshirts the game.
Part of the blame also lies with Lindgren. At the end of the second period, the defense became aggressive when fighting for position in front of the Rangers’ net. He broke his stick on Tyler Seguin’s back and was called for a rough, handing the Stars their first power play of the night.
But the worst error occurred in less than a minute. Goodrow signaled to Zibanejad to replace him, but he suddenly changed his mind as he reached for the zoomed puck. Zibanejad quickly fell back, but Goodrow headed to the bench again and recalled him to the ice.
Seguin slid into the vacant lane and received a pass from Mason Marchment to finish easily, ending 37:53 scoreless hockey by both sides.
Freebies delay attacks
Before that, it was a low-event, strong defensive game.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Rangers held the Stars to zero dangerous scoring chances in the first period, with just 10 goalscoring shots in the opening 34 minutes.
The game capped the first-place Dallas team with 25 shots.
“I think we did a good job overall in the D zone,” Gallant said. “We supported the pack but hardly gave them a second or third chance. They had a few oddman rushes, but they weren’t too bad. I think our players digested it and played hard against their opponents.” It’s a really good team. ”
The problem is that they struggled to create their own attacks.
After scoring four or more goals in five straight games, the Rangers’ wells have dried up. They credited him with only 4 of his HDCFs throughout the game, and he went 0-4 on power plays.
Some of the offensive issues stemmed from poor pack management. The Rangers committed his 23 turnovers, 18 of which were considered freebies. The main culprits were Panarin and Alexis Lafrenière, each of whom was claimed three freebies.
“We flipped a lot of packs. Usually East-West plays in the offensive zone collapsed in the middle and took advantage of some of those opportunities,” Gallant said. “But we didn’t play intelligently in the first half of the match. We kept getting flipped in those areas. Then we finally started to get the puck below the goal line and had some chances, but we ourselves caused a lot of ‘(problems) tonight. ”
Alexis Lafrenière achieves career-high TOI
Lafrenière came into the game with a big chance after Gallant substituted for the injured Chris Crider in Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild.
That means the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft will jump from row 3 to row 1 and occupy Crider’s front-of-the-net position in the top power play unit.
“We had some good shifts and some tougher shifts,” said Lafrenière. You have to grab the puck in corners, etc. So try to grab as many pucks as you can, then go back to your position and either screen the goalie or be their option.
It didn’t provide the initial shock the Rangers wanted from the brawl ahead, but Gallant stuck with him.
The 21-year-old posted a career-best time of 21:21 on the ice and seemed more comfortable playing the role as the game progressed.
“It was really no big deal,” Gallant said. “He was fine. I liked the way he played. He had some flex near the net. In the games our team played, I thought he was good.”
The Rangers also played the final two periods without Julien Gautier, who clashed with teammate Sammy Bure and did not return with an upper body injury. Gallant said it would be reassessed over the weekend.
Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers Beat Reporter for the USA TODAY Network. For more on his work, visit lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter. @vzmercogliano.