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Bitetto lights lamp for Rangers

Island Park native scores first goal with NYR


In just his second game wearing a New York Rangers sweater, Island Park native Anthony Bitetto scored a highlight-reel goal to help the Blueshirts to a 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Bitetto, a left-handed defenseman who in October signed a two-year contract as a free agent to join the franchise he grew up rooting for, gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead 9:15 into the second period. He circled behind the Washington net, shrugged off a hit from Carl Hagelin and continued along the boards before skating toward the slot, working through some opposing traffic and sliding a backhand shot past goaltender Vitek Vanecek.

“It was magical,” said the 30-year-old Bitetto, who played in a career-high 51 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season and registered eight assists, 145 hits and 50 blocked shots, “I usually don’t score those type of goals,” he added. “More importantly, we got a good win.”

It was Bitetto’s third NHL goal in 185 games. He has 25 career assists. Each of the three previous times he put the puck in the net, he said, it was disallowed. “My mindset was please Lavi [Washington coach Peter Laviolette] don’t challenge it,” Bitetto said.

The dynamic goal, Bitetto’s first in three seasons, was shown as one of the “Top Plays” of the night on NHL Network. “It was a blackout moment pretty much,” he said.

A 2008 West Hempstead High School graduate, Bitetto was drafted in the sixth round in 2010 by Nashville and made his NHL debut for the Predators on Jan. 17, 2015.