Filip Chytil didn’t even know that Barclay Goodrow was going to play Saturday night until he saw the utility forward getting ready in the locker room.
Goodrow, who had missed 11 games with a suspected ankle fracture, returned to the lineup to help the Rangers stave off elimination for a fourth time this postseason with a 5-2 win over the Hurricanes in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden.
Goodrow, who hadn’t played since Game 1 of their first-round series against the Penguins, slotted into the middle of the Rangers’ fourth line, between Tyler Motte and Ryan Reaves. He finished with one shot on goal and one hit in 13:16 of ice time.
“I was surprised, but I was very happy for him,” said Chytil, who scored twice in the victory, which sent the series to Game 7, in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday night. “I think he made a huge difference for us in this game. He’s a great player for our team. Of course, he helped us a lot and it’s great to see him back.”
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant revealed that Goodrow had resumed skating individually before the club traveled to Carolina for Game 5 at PNC Arena on Thursday, but the 29-year-old hadn’t skated with the team yet.
The usual recovery timeline from a fractured ankle is around six weeks and Goodrow returned in three and a half, which could mean it wasn’t as serious as previously reported. Gallant had said Friday that Goodrow wouldn’t play in Game 6.
“When I talked to you guys, you probably thought I was lying,” Gallant said. “I didn’t know nothing at that time. Obviously, I got a call later in the day and I was told he was cleared. I wasn’t lying, trust me.”
After the Lightning traded Goodrow to the Rangers in the offseason, following his key contributions to Tampa Bay’s back-to-back Stanley Cup runs, he had a career year with the Rangers. He recorded 13 goals and 20 assists in 79 games for 33 points, nine more than his previous career best with the Sharks in 2019-20.
The Rangers had missed Goodrow on the penalty kill, which he jumped right into in his first game back, as well as on their forecheck.
Special teams has been a key strength of the Rangers, but there have been some costly slipups in this series — particularly in the form of two shorthanded goals against. But the Rangers’ penalty-kill unit got it done in a key moment in Saturday’s win.
The Rangers have gone 5-for-18 with the man-advantage after scoring two power-play goals Saturday night. They have now scored power-play goals in four consecutive playoff games for the first time since 2008.
After skating in his 93rd postseason contest Saturday night, Chris Kreider tied Walt Tkaczuk for the fifth-most games played in Rangers playoff history.