The New York Rangers have already seen this episode a few times this season.
A less-than-convincing effort on Sunday night in their inaugural meeting with the expansion Seattle Kraken saw goaltender Igor Shesterkin bail the Blueshirts out once again in a 3-1 victory.
The 25-year-old netminder stood on his head once again to earn his fifth victory in seven starts this season, stopping 31 shots on a night in which his team was outshot 32-18 — including a second period in which the Rangers were thoroughly dominated and outshot 8-2.
“It’s another night. How many times has he done that? Two or three for sure,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said. “So he was outstanding… No, we weren’t good… Igor stole the show again.”
Shesterkin improved to 5-1-1 on the season while upping his save percentage to .947 with a 1.70 goals-against average. He’s been stellar on the road, winning each of his four starts with a .970 save percentage.
His benchmark moment came with eight minutes left in the third period in a 1-1 game when his save on Brandon Tanev right on the doorstep sparked the transition game that led to Adam Fox’s game-winning goal from Artemi Panarin.
He then proceeded to stand on his head in the final minutes, including another circus stop against six Seattle attackers with their net empty off a scramble from Mark Giordano’s slapshot from the point.
“It’s repetitive when we talk about it,” Fox said. “We can sing his praises for days, but he keeps us in every game and you never feel like you’re out. It’s a tie game and he keeps it that way, and obviously, we get one. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
But how sustainable can this brand of hockey be to simply rely on a goaltender as the last line of defense for a porous blue line?
“Well, what do we got? 70-something games?” Gallant joking asked.
The Rangers’ Corsi rating, measuring control of the puck during 5-on-5 play, ranks 25th in the NHL at 47.3% while their expected goals against is the fifth-highest in hockey.
“We don’t want to rely on him that heavy most games, but when we need him, he comes through,” Fox said. “No one wants to have their goaltender bail them out most games.”