NEW YORK — The New York Rangers abruptly fired President John Davidson and General Manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday with three games left in the season.

Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton.

The stunning move came less than 24 hours after the team ripped the league for fining but not suspending Washington’s Tom Wilson for his role in a scrum Monday night that injured Rangers star Artemi Panarin. In the statement, the team – not attributed to Davidson, Gorton or any individual – said the decision was a dereliction of duty and that George Parros was “unfit” to remain in his job as head of player safety.

It was not immediately clear if the front office shakeup had any connection to the statement. The Rangers postponed Coach David Quinn’s pregame media availability Wednesday morning but did not give a reason why.

“We want to thank JD and Jeff for their contributions to the organization,” owner James Dolan said in a statement. “They are both great hockey professionals who worked hard for the Rangers, however, in order for the team to succeed in the manner our fans deserve, there needs to be a change in leadership.”

Whatever the reason, cutting ties with Davidson and Gorton is a shocking development given the apparent speed of New York’s rebuild. The Rangers qualified for the NHL’s expanded, 24-team playoffs in 2020, won the draft lottery and the opportunity to select Alexis Lafreniere with the top pick and are expected to finish fifth in the eight-team East Division this season.

Since Gorton became GM in 2015 and Davidson joined the organization in spring 2019, the Rangers have built one of the most impressive collections of young talent in hockey. In addition to Lafreniere, they picked forward Kaapo Kakko second overall in the 2019 draft, found their goaltender of the future in Igor Shesterkin and acquired an elite No. 1 defenseman in Adam Fox.

Those players, along with Panarin and center Mika Zibanejad, are expected to make up a core that contends for the postseason for years to come. Gorton and Davidson are responsible for bringing in all those players.

The path forward will now be charted by Drury, a rising star in management who finished his playing career as captain of the Rangers from 2008-11. He was recently named USA Hockey’s GM for the upcoming world championships.

“Chris is a very sought-after executive and a strong leader, who has proven himself to be one of the top young minds in hockey,” Dolan said. “We are confident he will effectively guide the team to ensure the long-term success we promised Rangers fans.”

FLYERS: Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was suspended for two games without pay by the NHL for boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman.

Gostisbehere was assessed a minor penalty for cross-checking in the third period of Philadelphia’s 7-3 home loss Tuesday night.
The suspension will cost Gostisbehere $77,586.

DEVILS: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Nico Daws to a three-year, entry-level contract starting in the 2021-22 season.

General Manager Tom Fitzgerald announced the signing of the team’s third-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Daws recently finished his 2020-21 season in Germany. He had a 4-6-0 record in 10 games with one shutout and a 2.90 goals-against average. He had a 23-8-3-3 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and .924 save percentage for Guelph (OHL) in 2019-20. His save percentage ranked first among goaltenders in the OHL.

OILERS: Connor McDavid is within reach of a milestone that could go down in hockey history.

McDavid needs seven points in Edmonton’s final five games to reach 100 in 56 games during this pandemic-shortened NHL season. Getting there would be an achievement remembered alongside Wayne Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games, but the Oilers captain is far more worried about the 16 victories needed to win the Stanley Cup than the chase for 100 points.

“It’s a number,” McDavid said. “If I get there, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world, either. The most important thing is our team is gearing up for the playoffs and making sure we’re firing on all cylinders in Game 1.”

After Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over Vancouver, Edmonton improved the 32-17-2. With five games left, McDavid has 31 goals and 62 assists for 93 points.

The reigning league MVP wants to make sure 100 happens. Leon Draisaitl, who scored two goals Tuesday night with assists from McDavid, said the Oilers as a team are determined to get him to the milestone.

“He does so much for our team,” said Draisaitl, who is a distant second in the scoring race behind McDavid, with 75 points. “He does so much for us on a nightly basis that the least we can do is help him out as much as we can. It might not be that important to him, but it sure is important to us for him to get to that point.”

McDavid is eager to shift focus to the postseason, a place the world’s best hockey player has really only been once in six pro seasons. Edmonton fizzled out in the expanded, 24-team bubble playoffs last year, and that only fired up McDavid more to get into the round of 16 and beyond.

The result has been a points-per-game average topped only 23 times since the expansion era began in 1967. The list of those seasons is full of Hall of Famers, including Gretzky (11 times) and Mario Lemieux (6).

“He’s proven very difficult to keep off the scoresheet this year, and he plays the right way every night,” Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie said. “He hasn’t taken any nights off, which is pretty incredible. It’s been impressive to watch this year and fun to be a part of.”

McDavid is the leading candidate to succeed Draisaitl as winner of the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, which he won the first time in 2017 when Edmonton made a run to the Western Conference final. He led the league with 100 points that season and had 108 the next year.

Getting 100 in 56 games would be on another level. With the Oilers all but locked into second place in the North Division, McDavid’s race to 100 is the last notable goal during the regular season.

“We’re going to try to get him there as best we can, but he can get ’er done on his own if he needs to,” Barrie said.

Coach Dave Tippett said this season will be a memorable one regardless of the 24-year-old center’s points total. Perennial postseason success is the next thing in reach for the Oilers.

“He’s the captain and the leader of our team; he wants our team to play well,” Tippett said. “He wants to be a playoff team year after year and give himself a chance to win the Stanley Cup, so he’s very motivated.”

SABRES: Goaltender Michael Houser is six years removed from being an American Hockey League regular, and his last start came March 7, 2020, with Cincinnati of the ECHL. That only made Houser’s 34-save victory in his NHL debut Monday night for Buffalo all the more of an accomplishment, and he followed that up with a 45-save win Tuesday.

“I was really excited to play behind six NHL defensemen,” Houser said. “Any time you’re in the (ECHL) it seems like it’s quite a jump to get there. … But they always tell you to stay ready.”

RACE FOR HOME ICE: A handful of teams are still in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Carolina is firmly in the driver’s seat after back-to-back victories, especially after Vegas blew a 5-3 lead and lost at Minnesota on Monday night.

Florida, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Washington and Minnesota are also in contention near the end of a season with no crossover play out of division. Who’s the best team? No one really knows.

NHL: The head of New Jersey’s homeland security department is leaving to take a top position with the league. Jared Maples has been the director of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness since 2017, serving under former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and current Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

Prior to that, Maples worked for two years at the Department of Defense and 10 years at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Beginning next month, Maples will become the NHL’s executive vice president and chief security officer, the league announced Wednesday. He’ll replace Dennis Cunningham, who has been with the league since 1993. Maples “brings extensive administrative and strategic experience working in complex security environments,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES

LIGHTNING 6, STARS 2: Defenseman Erik Cernak had a goal and two assists to help Tampa Bay beat visiting Dallas.

Defending champion Tampa Bay has won six of the seven meetings this season between the 2020 Stanley Cup finalists. The teams will meet again Friday night in Tampa.

BLUE JACKETS 4, PREDATORS 2: Mikhail Grigorenko scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and host Columbus rallied to beat Nashville.

Oliver Bjorkstrand had two goals, including an empty-netter with less than a second remaining, and Jack Roslovic also scored for the Blue Jackets, who stopped a two-game skid and won for just the second time in 12 games. It also marked the fifth straight game (2-0-3) Columbus has earned a point.

Elvis Merzlikins ended with 30 saves for his eighth win.

Tanner Jeannot and Calle Jarnkrok scored for Nashville, which sits in fourth place in the Central Division. The Predators maintained a four-point lead over Dallas. The Stars have one game in hand.

CAPITALS 4, RANGERS 2: T.J. Oshie had a hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 19 saves and visiting Washington beat depleted New York in a fight-filled game.

Oshie beat Alexandar Georgiev 12 seconds into the middle period with a shot from the right circle with Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich in the penalty box.

Oshie scored again at 8:26 of the second – again with Buchnevich penalized for a high-sticking major – his 20th goal of the season.

Nic Dowd also scored for Washington at 14:48 of the second with assists to defenseman John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov, his second of the game.

Oshie, whose father died this week, completed his hat trick with an empty net goal at 18:20 of the third.

Rangers rookie Alexis Lafreniere ruined Vanecek’s shuout bid at 1:15 of the third period with his 11th goal of the season. Fellow rookie forward Morgan Barron scored his first NHL goal at 18:44 to complete the scoring.

The Capitals moved into a first-place tie with idle Pittsburgh in the East Division. Washington has three games left while the Penguins have two.

The contest also followed Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Capitals in which Washington forward Tom Wilson pummeled Rangers top scorer Artemi Panarin after Wilson had punched Buchnevich during a scrum near the Capitals net. The loss eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Wilson was assessed 14 minutes in penalties but not tossed from the game. On Tuesday, the NHL fined the Capitals agitator $5,000 leading the Rangers to issue a scathing statement criticizing the league and its director of player safety, George Parros.

Wednesday’s game had six fights in the first period, commencing with a center-ice brawl right off the opening faceoff. Rangers center Kevin Rooney fought Dowd; winger Phil DiGuiseppe went with Washington’s Garnet Hathaway while Colin Blackwell battled former Ranger Carl Hagelin.

Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith then took on Wilson at the 50-second mark. Smith received an extra two-penalty for instigating the fight with Wilson, who was booed loudly every time he skated on the ice.

Rangers Ryan Strome battled Lars Eller of Washington and Rangers defenseman Anthony Bitetto fought Washington’s Michael Raffl at 4:14 of the first.

Wilson left the game after the first period. with an upper-body injury after skating four shifts for a total of 2 minutes and 36 seconds.
The penalty boxes were overflowing for both teams. At one point, there were six Capitals crammed into the visiting box.

SENATORS 5, CANADIENS 1: Erik Brannstrom had three assists for his first career multipoint game, Shane Pinto scored his first NHL goal and Ottawa beat visiting Montreal.

Brady Tkachuk, Nick Paul, Connor Brown and Alex Formenton also scored for the Senators, who improved to 8-2-1 over their past 11 games.

Joel Edmundson scored for the Canadiens.

DUCKS 3, BLUES 2: Haydn Fleury scored the shootout winner after also connecting in regulation as Anaheim won at St. Louis.

Max Jones also scored for the Ducks. Anthony Stolarz made 25 saves and stopped all three attempts in the shootout.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3, WILD 2: Alex Pietrangelo scored at 1:53 of overtime to lift visiting Vegas past Minnesota.

Alex Tuch, the Wild’s first-round draft pick in 2014, set up Pietrangelo with a pass across the slot that helped the West Division-leading Golden Knights loosen the race a little and win for the first time in four games at Minnesota this season.


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