Solid goaltending by Igor Shesterkin helped the New York Rangers snap a four-game losing streak Sunday with a solid 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
Shesterkin played valiantly over 60 minutes of hockey, stopping not only 24 of 25 shots but also the bleeding from a frustrating recent stretch for the Broadway Blueshirts as they fight to stay atop the Metropolitan Division.
It wasn’t a “perfect game,” as coach Peter Laviolette admitted after the game, but Sunday’s win was a step back in the right direction.
“We got a little sleepy in the second period, it seemed like last night caught up to us,” Laviolette said. “We came out the right way and then intermission happened, but then I thought it sunk just a little bit. But I thought we picked back up in the third period, and got going. We were fresh offensively and defended hard when we had to.”
After the most recent loss in Washington Saturday afternoon, the Rangers set about early Sunday on their home ice to change the tone. Less than minute into the game, Artemi Panarin opened the scoring with a beautiful one-timer shot that Vincent Trocheck set up for him, driving the puck past Capitals’ goalie Charlie Lindgen and setting the Garden into a frenzy.
It was Panarin’s 26th goal of the year, and he would have a hand later on in the Rangers’ second goal of the afternoon — with just seconds left in the first period.
Stuck against the boards, Panarin helped feed the puck to his right to Braden Schneider near the Capitals’ blue line, who then sent it down the ice to Alexis Lafreniere, all alone against Lindgren.
After Lindgren deflected his first attempt, Lafreniere was there to finish it off, flipping the puck past over Lindgren’s glove and into the net.
The bookending goals gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. And as it turned out, it would be all Shesterkin needed the next 40 minutes — though not without some stress for Rangers fans along the way.
The Capitals cut the deficit in half with about 9 minutes left in the second period with a goal from T.J. Oshie, quieting the Garden crowd, and bringing back some doubt about whether the Rangers, who blew leads the last two outings, would fritter away this opportunity to snap the skid.
The rest of the game belonged to the goalies, as both Shesterkin and Lingdren stopped every scoring opportunity from that point on with brilliant play.
Lindgren, brother of Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, played for the second straight day. He made a fabulous glove save on Chris Kreider at 15:23 of the second with Rangers on a 5-on-3 power-play and stopped Jimmy Vesey point-blank at 6:27 of the third after Vesey stripped Max Pacioretty of the puck in the Capitals zone.
Shesterkin then denied Oshie at 13:22 of second and stopped a furious sequence in his crease in the closing moments of the middle period as the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 lead heading into the third.
The closest the Capitals came toward evening the score came with a little more than a minute to play, when Michael Myers sent a shot sailing toward the Rangers net, only to be snagged out of the air by Shesterkin with a glove save.
Playing with an empty net and a man advantage the rest of the way, the Capitals kept the pressure on the Rangers, but the Blueshirts defense and Shesterkin would not relent. Another Shesterkin glove save in the final seconds sealed the deal for the Rangers, and gave them their 27th win on the season.
The Rangers’ lead in the Metropolitan Division is back up to three points, with 56 total, just past the halfway point in the season. They’ll resume play Tuesday night at the Garden, as they’ll host the Seattle Kraken.
With AP reports