Rangers’ Vitali Kravtsov scores first goal of season after promotion


Vitali Kravtsov scored his first goal of the season in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators Friday night at the Garden, but the Russian winger had no interest in talking about his personal accomplishments following such a harrowing team defeat.

“I didn’t really think about the goal, just because we lost and that was a huge bummer,” Kravtsov said with the help of a translator. “Goals, they come and go, but the goal was to win, and we didn’t do that.”

After Kravtsov’s first shot caught Travis Hamonic in the throat, which sent the Ottawa defenseman to the ice and later to the locker room in the first period, he recollected the puck and deposited it far side from the bottom of the left faceoff circle to open the scoring for the Rangers.

The 22-year-old pumped his fist in celebration and was immediately swarmed by his new linemates, Filip Chytil and Artemi Panarin, who gave Kravtsov a few congratulatory gloves to the face and nudges to the head. The kid had earned the bump to the second line after a strong first game back following eight straight scratches.

Vitali Kravtsov (left) celebrates after scoring a goal in the Rangers’ 3-2 OT loss to the Senators.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Half of those scratches he was healthy for, but Kravtsov had a different aura to him in his first contest back in the Rangers lineup on Wednesday in Ottawa. There was a noticeable presence to him that wasn’t there before. Kravtsov was in on the forecheck, landing hits and causing opponents to turn the puck over. He didn’t fade to the background as he did through his previous six games, most of which he didn’t even finish because to injury.

“I felt the same way I did in Russia,” Kravtsov said earlier in the day of his first game back after the Rangers’ morning skate in Tarrytown. “Confident. In the locker room, ice, everywhere — like I fit here.”

For anyone who watched Kravtsov play in the Kontinental Hockey League in his home country, you know how much of a positive sign it is for him to say something like that. It was clear to everyone watching the 3-1 win over the Senators that Kravtsov felt differently. That included Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant, who opted to reward the 22-year-old by promoting him back to the top six.

Kravtsov returned to the right wing of the second line for the first time since Nov. 10 in Detroit and for just the third time this season in the rematch with Ottawa Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Both of the games he skated on the second unit, in the season-opener against the Lightning and the Rangers’ second game against the Red Wings, Kravtsov was not in the lineup the next contest.

When asked if he felt like he was able to build off his performance in Ottawa, Kravtsov kept the focus on the Rangers as a team.

“I’m not very happy with the way I played, obviously with the result,” he said. “I feel like everybody could probably say the same. We had a goal to win. You can’t really be proud of your game when you didn’t post the result you wanted.”

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