25-Year-Old Forward Has Four Goals, Two Assists Through First Seven Contests

By Sean Hartnett
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Early into the season, Rangers forward Brandon Pirri looks like one of the NHL’s best summer bargains. The Rangers are getting tremendous bang for their buck, having signed the Toronto native to a one-year, $1.1 million contract. Through seven games, Pirri has collected four goals and two assists.

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The 25-year-old is filling a longstanding need as the Blueshirts’ power play has lacked a bona fide sniper in recent seasons. The Rangers always had an abundance of skilled creators with pass-first mentalities. What makes Pirri so dangerous is his quick release. He owns a rifle of a shot and knows how to use it. On a late second-period power play, J.T. Miller found an unmanned Pirri, who rocketed a top corner blast over frozen goaltender Zane McIntyre’s glove side to gain a 3-2 lead.

“He brings a good wrist shot,” alternate captain Dan Girardi said. “He’s a scorer. He gets a shot like that, he’s not going to miss. Obviously, it’s nice to have that in our lineup. We got a really strong lineup in both forwards and D. Every line can contribute and has its different talents. He has a knack with that shot to make big-time goals. Obviously, we’re glad to have him.”

Two minutes and 23 seconds into the third period, Pirri cashed in again to extend the Blueshirts’ lead to 4-2. Like a dog with a scent in his nose, he forced a turnover on the forecheck and then camped out on the far post and stuffed the puck in the net. The Rangers went on to improve their record to 5-2 after defeating the Boston Bruins 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.

“He shoots it really well,” Miller said. “He’s been a big help for us on the power play, especially. Just got to keep finding ways to get him the puck. He’s in the right spot at the right time. He’s a goalscorer and knows where to go. He goes up to the point for the shot. He’s right in front of the net. That’s where you go to score goals.”

An effective power play has a lot of movement, and Pirri thinks cerebrally on the ice to deceive the opposition penalty kill by finding different shooting positions and moving his legs to sneak to open patches of ice. If the opposition gives him too much space, he’s going to get off well-placed shots.

“It’s just matter of moving around and changing your looks so their PK can’t focus on one particular guy or one particular play,” Pirri said. “You don’t want to get too stagnant. Usually, the puck doesn’t come from the corner on the pass from J.T. He made a heads-up play, and I had time to shoot.”

Girardi Escapes Injury, Jooris Out 3-4 Weeks

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At 10:55 of the second period, Bruins winger David Pastrnak made direct contact with Girardi’s head as the veteran defenseman attempted to swat down an aerial puck at center ice. Pastrnak lined up his shoulder, and his feet left the ice. The hit immediately caused a melee of Rangers jumping in, and the Garden crowd reacted irately when the Czech winger was only whistled for a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head. Pastrnak will have a hearing Friday.

Girardi immediately went through concussion testing protocol, and after passing tests, finished the game. Head coach Alain Vigneault said after Wednesday’s victory that he has “a definite opinion” on the hit, but would not offer an immediate comment. While leaving the press room, he turned to the media and indicated that he may speak about the hit at Thursday’s noon practice.

“I’m kind of reaching for the puck,” Girardi said. “I kind of see him last second. I don’t really know what makes contact with my face first. It is what it is. I try to make a hit, and he hit me in the front of the face. It wasn’t like it was a side-of-the-head hit. Like I said, they have to do the protocol and take the test. It helps protect players, and I felt fine after the test and went right back out.”

Josh Jooris wasn’t as fortunate as Girardi. The 26-year-old forward left the game late in the first period and did not return. He skated for a total of four shifts. Vigneault revealed that the injury is a separated shoulder. Jooris is expected to miss three to four weeks.

McIlrath Placed On Waivers

The Rangers placed 24-year-old defenseman Dylan McIlrath on waivers on Thursday afternoon. McIlrath has been a healthy scratch for five consecutive games. The Rangers hope he will slip through unclaimed, but it’s likely he will get claimed by another organization. He has skated in 38 games for the Rangers, collecting two goals and two assists, and has been penalized for 84 PIM.

The move was made to clear room for winger Pavel Buchnevich, who had been placed on injured reserve with back spasms. He will play in Carolina on Friday night.

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