Anthony Bitetto had himself a moment on Thursday that was fit for a Hollywood script.
In what was only his second game for the New York Rangers against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden after being elevated from the Taxi Squad, Anthony Bitetto scored what was his first goal in three years to help the Blueshirts to a big, big 4-2 win over the Caps.
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To be precise, it was the defenseman’s first goal since the 2017-18 season, basically 112 NHL games and nearly three whole years since he lit the lamp, which is pretty incredible. But it was the way in which the 30-year-old scored that really impressed and set Hockey Twitter alight.
Let us set the scene. With the Rangers holding a slender 1-0 lead at 10:54 in the second period, Anthony Bitetto took a hard pass along the boards before travelling all the way behind the net, down the opposite boards, past a couple of Capitals players before cutting in, weaving his way towards goal and then sending the puck past Vitek Vanecek with his backhand.
Anthony Bitetto’s dream moment for the New York Rangers a true feel-good story
It was an absolutely sublime move that nobody saw coming, and it was a true highlight reel type of goal, one we would be talking about for months if the likes of Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby had scored it. However, it was a journeyman defenseman who did score it, and it was a real-feel good moment for a number of reasons.
For starters, Bitetto, who was taken with the 168th pick by the Nashville Predators in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, signed a one-year, two-way deal with the New York Rangers in the offseason after skating in 51 games for the Winnipeg Jets in 2019-20, recording eight points (0 G, 8 A). The 30-year-old began the season on the Rangers’ Taxi Squad but was promoted to the roster after Tony DeAngelo was placed in hockey exile.
It was also special given that it was Bitetto’s first goal in nearly three years, but it took on more meaning given that the defenseman was born and raised in Long Island, making the Rangers his hometown team. So, to score a goal like that after not scoring for nearly three years at the World’s Most Famous Arena for the team you grew up around is pretty incredible.
The goal, which is as sublime as you will see given the skill involved, also came in the game where the Rangers wore their famous Lady Liberty jerseys for the first time since they were brought back via adidas’ Reverse Retro rollout, so there is that aspect too. And, finally, it was also a big goal given that it gave the Blueshirts a two-goal lead and really gave them the platform to push on and secure what was a huge win in what is a loaded East Division.
I mean, it was the kind of moment that you would find in a Hollywood script and even Rangers Head Coach David Quinn was bemused when he first saw his third-pairing defenseman taking the puck all by himself behind the net and then through the Capitals defense, and the clip below is worth watching.
But New York is the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, after all, and it certainly was a dream come true for Anthony Bitetto, who had his three previous goals challenged and then taken away, while he has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while. He certainly took it with both hands and he could now establish himself as a key piece on the backend for the Rangers with both Jack Johnson and Brendan Smith injured.
While Anthony Bitetto is hardly a household name and, with all due fairness he probably won’t be even now, for those of us who grew up loving hockey and loving a certain team, watching someone who has bounced around in the NHL score an absolutely insane goal for his hometown team was pretty special and it is a moment we’ve probably all lived out in our dreams time and time again. Those are the kind of stories you can really get behind and cheer for, and Anthony Bitetto is a player you can really root for given his journey to get to where he is now, which is scoring absolutely incredible goals for the New York Rangers.