The Rangers won because their goaltender stood on his head.
No, it wasn’t Igor Shesterkin. This time, it was Alexandar Georgiev.
The 26-year old from Bulgaria took more shots than “Sonny at the toll booth,” as he made 44 saves to lead the Rangers to a 2-0 victory and a sweep of the two game weekend series against a pair of Stanley Cup contenders.
It was an impressive back-to-back games for this gritty Rangers’ team that seems to find ways to win, even when they’re not at their best. Taking into account the competition and being on the road, you could make an argument that this was the best stretch of goaltending in back to back games by two different Ranger goalies [Igor and Alex] since the days of Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure.
“We were lucky today. I’d like to say we come in here and played a great game and that,” Gallant said after an impressive win. “Last night was a great game, today was a great goaltender [Georgiev] who was unbelievable, made great saves. We were a tired hockey team. I’m not holding any punches back. We get in at two o’clock in the morning, got to play a six o’clock game from playing a good game last night.”
Georgiev was sharp and was rarely out of position as he was bombarded by a team that was appropriately named “Hurricanes.” The shots just kept on coming against a tired Ranger team that had come off an incredibly draining win over the two-time defending Stanley Cup Lightning, less than 24 hours previously.
Georgiev was tested from the start as the Rangers were outshot 14-3 in a scoreless first period. “They shoot a lot of pucks and first period was important to keep them at zero ‘cause we know they come hard at us so that was huge,” Georgiev said after a busy night.
In the second period, the game remained scoreless until Chris Kreider deflected Jacob Trouba’s shot, from the point, past Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was Kreider’s team leading 41st goal of the season. Alexis LaFreniere also assisted on the goal to give him points in three straight games.
After two periods, the Hurricanes had a 29-10 shot advantage, but no goals, while the Rangers had the lead. In the third period, Carolina unloaded 15 more shots but Georgiev seemed to get stronger as the game wore on.
Late in the third, with Andersen off for an extra skater, Georgiev denied Carolina’s Sebastian Aho who was open in front. The Rangers were a tired bunch but the goaltender saved their bacon. “Awesome. He gave us a chance to win. He kept us in there and we tried to play as best defense as possible in front of him,” Frank Vatrano said after the game.
Vatrano scored into the empty net for his first goal as a Ranger with 41.3 seconds left to put the game away. “They don’t count, right. I’ll take it, I’ll take it,” he said. “Our line’s been close the past few games and empty netters can kind of get yourself going. I’m glad I could seal the deal for the boys.”
Mika Zibanejad assisted on the goal to give him points in seven of his last nine games.
The shot total in the end was 44-18, but, those few times when the Rangers do get outplayed, they still manage to come away with two points. “They [Carolina] were all over us, they dominated but we found a way to get two points. It was a huge two points for us,” Gallant said.
The win gave the Rangers (40-18-5) four wins in their last five games and it enabled them to move back into second place in the Metropolitan Division with 17 to play. The loss was first place Carolina’s fourth in a row and they lead the Rangers by three points and have a game in hand. The ‘Canes also had a 14-game home point streak snapped, which was one shy of their franchise record.
“Playing against Tampa and Carolina, traveling back to back. Two of the top teams in the league. I think it shows how good of a team we have,” Vatrano said after a draining 60 minutes.
Georgiev played his best game as a Ranger. Ironically, it comes a day before the trade deadline later today at 3 pm eastern time, so it may have been Georgiev’s final game as a Ranger. The shutout was his first since March, 2021 when he blanked the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Felt pretty great. Its been a long time since I had a game like that where it’s not a lot of goals, and tie game ‘till then so I tried to enjoy that and be in the moment and compete,” said Georgiev.
The question now concerns Georgiev’s immediate future. Will he get another chance to compete in a Ranger uniform or will Georgiev be wearing another sweater. We’ll know later today.