It was like one of those good old Western movies.
“The Return of the Goaltender” starred Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin as the hero who gets hurt in a showdown and seems to be done, but he makes a miraculous return to save the day and, appropriately enough, settle things in a shootout.
K’Andre Miller’s shootout goal, in the ninth round, decided the outcome but it was Shesterkin who made 31 saves, including some beauties to spark the Rangers to a thrilling 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins at the Garden last night.
“He [Shesterkin] was great, he had a great night. Both goaltenders were real good in a 1-1 hockey game. He was outstanding, got the fans behind him, that’s for sure,” coach Gerard Gallant said
This memorable regular season game featured a goaltending clinic as Shesterkin was absolutely fabulous and just a little bit better than Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who was equally brilliant with 33 saves.
This was one of those games that “should not end in a shootout,” but those are the rules. Even if you don’t like the format, you have to admit, it was tense and exciting as Shesterkin and Swayman would not be denied.
With 40.5 seconds left in overtime, Shesterkin was pulled from the game because he had to go through the NHL’s safety protocol. Rangers long time trainer Jim Ramsay was the messenger who had to go out on the ice and tell Shesterkin that he had to go get checked out. Shersterkin was upset and banged his goalie stick against the glass before departing.
A short time before that, Shesterkin was in a collision with the Bruins Craig Smith and seemed slow getting up. After coincidental minor penalties were called, play continued and Shesterkin seemed to be fine as he made three more saves, before a call came down from the spotter to take the goalie off the ice to be checked out.
Alexandar Georgiev, who had been sitting all night long, had to go in but the Rangers controlled the puck for the remainder of the 3-on-3 overtime.
Most thought Shesterkin was finished for the night, including his coach. “I thought he was done, I had no idea, he went off. Next thing I know I see him coming out,” Gallant said.
It wasn’t exactly a “Willis Reed” moment, but right before the shootout began, you could almost imagine a “Here comes Igor” call as Shesterkin returned to the ice after clearing protocol. “When I came out, the fans just gave me so much energy that I couldn’t do anything else but save the game,” Shesterskin said through an interpreter.
In the shootout, Shesterkin stopped 7 of 9 shots. Jake deBrusk and Charlie Coyle scored the Bruins’ goals while the Rangers got goals from Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, who put on a flurry of moves with the puck before getting it past Swayman.
In the ninth round, Miller made his first career shootout attempt count as he skated in on Swayman and was able to deke and flip the puck, on his forehand, into the net.
Did the young defenseman volunteer to go out as the ninth shooter. “No, definitely not. Definitely not,” he said. “Coach kinda turned to me and he goes, ‘Up’ and I go, ‘Really? You want me, me to go? Am I hearing this right?’
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Charlie Coyle less than four minutes in. It remained that way until the 6:45 mark of the third period when Filip Chytil poked in his own rebound past Swayman to tie the game at one.
A few minutes later, Shesterkin denied Taylor Hall on a breakaway to keep the game tied. Later in the period, he stoned Bruins left wing Anton Blidh who was in front of the net.
The Vezina Trophy candidate had to make three saves in the final ten seconds of the third period and then stopped David Pastrnak on a deflection in overtime.
Panarin had a breakaway in overtime, but Swayman was equal to the task
The Rangers were playing their first game in two weeks and it showed early on as they did not have a shot on goal until the 12:15 mark of the first period.
Slowly but surely, the Rangers started to find their game and ended up with 34 shots, including six in overtime.
Rangers improved to 31-13-4 with their third straight win and have won 11 of their last 16 since the calendar turned to 2022.