Artemi Panarin picked the perfect time to score his first goal of the season, but it never would’ve happened without his goaltender.
Igor Shesterkin stood on his head and made 40 saves and Panarin scored at 3:48 of overtime to give the Rangers a thrilling 2-1 win over the high flying Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena last night. The win gave the Rangers two straight wins on their current four game road trip that continues Thursday night in Nashville.
“We stole one,” Mika Zibanejad said after a wild and exciting overtime win.
It was like watching a goaltending clinic as Shesterkin and Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell made some jaw dropping saves.
After a slow start to the five minute session, there was a sequence where Shesterkin nearly made a costly mistake.
With about two minutes left in overtime, the puck came loose at center ice, but Leafs’ defenseman T.J. Brodie poked it ahead into the Ranger zone. Shesterkin came way out of his net, just past the dot of the left face off circle, and tried to shoot the puck off the boards, out of the zone. However, Leafs’ center Auston Matthews (who was making his season debut after undergoing wrist surgery two months ago) was trailing the play and fired a one timer towards the net that Shesterkin made a left pad save on from just inside the face off circle.
The rebound floated out to the slot as Shesterkin backed up towards the net. Nylander played the puck and passed to Matthews who fired a wrist shot from the left circle but Shesterkin made another fabulous save to keep the game tied. “He was incredible tonight. He obviously stole us a couple of points in here tonight,” Ranger coach Gerard Gallant said after the game
Campbell made three saves in overtime, but the Rangers were able to cash in on a rare face off win.
The Rangers were dominated in the face off circle throughout the game, but it was the final draw that was the charm. Zibanejad won it and got the puck back to Panarin, who fired the shot past Campbell for an impressive win. “Just gotta take advantage of your chance when you get it. We were the team that did and, at the end of the day, we come away from this place with two points,” Zibanejad said.
Zibanejad continued his strong start to the season as he opened the scoring at 13:49 of the first period with his first goal of the season. The Ranger center had to wait for a replay to confirm the goal that hit the post and caromed off the back of the net and came out so quickly. Zibanejad had the lone assist on Panarin’s goal and he now has five points on the young season.
Toronto tied the game 1-1 early in the second, while spending most of the period in the Ranger zone. Leafs’ winger Micheal Bunting outmuscled Ranger defenseman Patrik Nemeth in front of the net and he was able to tap in the loose puck.
Shesterkin stopped 16 of 17 shots in the second period and the Rangers were fortunate to be tied after two. “We had a bad second period. 17 to 2 shots, we were a little sleepy in the second, obviously we got dominated,” Gallant said after the game. “I thought the first was okay, I thought the third was okay, the overtime was okay. Teams traded chances. Did we have a bad 25 minutes? Yeah.”
Panarin was off to a sluggish start in this game and the season, but he found some jump in the third period and then looked like his old self in overtime. Gallant is hoping this is the start of a streak for his dynamic winger. “He likes to score, he likes to make plays. He makes those plays so, hopefully tonight that goal will make him feel real good about himself,” Gallant said.
The Rangers were once again missing two of their top forwards as Ryan Strome and Kappo Kakko were out of the line up. Strome is dealing with Covid protocols while Kakko went on injured reserve with an upper body injury.
The Rangers certainly did not play their best, but finding a way to win a game where they were out shot 41-23 and overwhelmed in the face off circle by a 41-13 margin is a good sign, early in the season.
“You’re not gonna have your best game every night. Steal one when you’re not at your best,” Jacob Trouba said.