In no way did this seem like a fluke, and in no way did the person who made it happen act as if anything abnormal was going on at all.
J.T. Miller is 19 years old, and through two career NHL games he has now significantly raised the Rangers’ level of internal competition and lit a spark under a team that was struggling through some early-season doldrums.
Thursday night, in his first game on the Garden ice, Miller scored his first two NHL goals in a 4-1 win over the Islanders — and he took it like another day at the office.
“I’m still trying to stay even-keel here,” Miller said. “Obviously it was nice for me, but even better we got the win on home ice and a big bounce back from last game and we’ve just got to keep looking forward.”
Spoken like a true company man already.
“I try to temper myself,” said coach John Tortorella, “because I’m not sure where it goes. I’m not sure where it goes in two weeks.”
That would be the time the team needs to make a decision on Miller, a decision that is getting harder and harder each day. Because of his age, Miller can be returned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL after playing five games and not have the first year of his entry-level contract start. But once the team’s 2011 first-round pick (15th overall) plays game six, the three-year deal starts ticking.
“It’s important for the organization to keep feeding in with kids,” Tortorella said. “It’s a [salary] cap world, and you need the enthusiasm.”
Enthusiasm is what the Rangers got 1:29 into the first period, when fellow rookie Chris Kreider won a battle on the boards and the puck ended up on the stick of a streaking Miller, who roofed one over Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s right shoulder to make it 1-0.
“It was really nice to get past it,” Miller said of his first goal, the puck eventually retrieved by captain and linemate Ryan Callahan and delivered after the game. “There was still a lot of game to play, so I just wanted to keep plugging along.”
The Rangers (5-5-0) then got a goal from the slot by Marian Gaborik, his sixth of the season, and the period ended with the Islanders (4-5-1) down 2-0 and looking flat and overmatched.
“Some guys played tentative and some guys didn’t take hits to make plays,” said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, echoing what Tortorella had said about his team after Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Devils. “You’re not going to win like that.”
Miller's two goals lead Rangers to win; MSG broadcaster smacked by puck
New York Post | Feb 8