There are moments when a singular play can alter a game and the outcome of an entire season. For the New York Rangers, Igor Shesterkin may have provided that play.
Shesterkin’s key save on a penalty shot gave the Blueshirts momentum they would not relinquish, ultimately leading to a 4-3 comeback overtime win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.
The home-crowd fans of Madison Square Garden barely had time to get themselves comfortable before the Devils pounced. Five giveaways by the Rangers’ defense led the way to an early 2-0 New Jersey lead within the first five minutes of action.
New York quickly changed things up after the overwhelming start. Gallant shifted Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil and the decision almost immediately began showing positive results. Eventually, Vincent Trocheck found Chris Kreider on a breakaway to cut the deficit to just one at the end of the first period to give the Rangers some momentum.
“You gotta do something as a coach,” Gerard Gallant said on his line changes midway through the first period. “I want to keep the lines as they were but I wasn’t liking what I was seeing.”
The second period would turn into a battle between Devils’ phenom Jack Hughes and the reigning Vezina winner.
Hughes would beat Shesterkin on a breakaway midway through to put the Devils back up 3-1. A penalty shot between the two would put the game in the balance, but Shesterkin would rob Hughes on the free attempt to keep New York in the game.
“That’s the game. If they go up three goals, that’s a big deficit.” Adam Fox told AMNY afterward. “Instead he makes that save, we score on the powerplay and seven seconds later we get another and tie it up. That’s really what changed the game there.”
Shesterkin’s stand would shift momentum entirely in the second. Vincent Trocheck deflected a Fox shot past Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek and just seven seconds later, a face-off win would lead to a two-on-one fast break between K’Andre Miller and Kaapo Kakko. Kakko would bury the shot, tie the game at three apiece, and send the Garden into an absolute frenzy.
Both teams would be unable to score in the final frame leading the way to overtime. In the extra period, Filip Chytil scored the game-winner off a pass from Artemi Panarin to give the Rangers their fourth straight win.
“I know every time when ‘Bread’ has the puck, he makes a hole open. When I show my stick, he can always find me and I just shot it and it went in.” Chytil said.
The comeback win gives the Rangers their first four-game winning streak of the season and a point ahead of the Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Metro division. New York (15-10-5) will be back on the ice on Thursday night when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- New York’s slow start to the game was not only predicated by the defensive turnovers. It took the Rangers over 11 minutes into the first period to record their first shot of the contest. The attempt was quickly swallowed by Devils goalie, Vitek Vanecek.
- It was one of the ugliest starts in recent memory for captain Jacob Trouba. He was quickly bumped down to play with Libor Hajek midway through the first period after his two turnovers while Braden Schneider moved up to play with K’Andre Miller.
- Shesterkin’s denial of Hughes on a penalty shot was the third time the reigning Vezina winner has been in that situation in his career. He’s now 3-0 in his career on penalty shots (Tonight, 1/28/22 vs. MIN, 4/22/21 vs. PHI).