50 wins for the fifth time in franchise history, three straight shutouts and the Rangers continue to accumulate eye opening numbers in this incredible regular season that no one saw coming.
The Rangers (50-21-6) shutout the Winnipeg Jets, 3-0 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. Ranger goalie and Vezina candidate Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves for his second straight shutout and sixth of the season. “He’s had one little downturn where he wasn’t ‘Shesty-like’ but he’s been outstanding,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
It also marked the first time since February, 1973 (Gilles Villemure and Eddie Giacomin were the goaltenders) that the Rangers have posted three straight shutouts.
Ryan Strome scored two goals, while Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp (who was facing his old team) added two assists to lead the Rangers to their third straight win. The Rangers have won 10 of their last 13 and are tied with Carolina for first place in the Metropolitan Division as they continue to roll towards the playoffs.
The last time that the opponent scored a goal against the Rangers was a week ago when Carolina’s Sebastian Aho scored an empty net goal with six seconds remaining. The shutout streak has now reached 180 minutes and six seconds.
“It’s obviously a credit to our goalies but I think also, we’re playing good hockey. They’re there when we need them,” Strome said.
After a scoreless first period, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Strome. Panarin fed Mika Zibanejad on right wing and he put it in front where Strome was able to put it past Jets goaltender Eric Comrie, for his 18th goal of the season.
In the third period, the Rangers capped a long shift in the Jets offensive zone with a goal that made it 2-0. Panarin would not allow the puck to get over the blue line and it paid off. “Bread man” fed Adam Fox in the slot and he fired it past Comrie for his 11th goal of the season. Panarin now has 70 assists this season, becoming the fifth Ranger to reach that mark.
“Go somewhere. Just try and get open, he’ll find you,” Strome said.
Strome completed the scoring with an empty net goal that tied his career high of 19 that he set in the 2018-2019 season that he split with Edmonton and the Rangers.
Shesterkin did not have an easy night as he came up with some huge saves to keep Winnipeg off the board. With a little over five minutes left in the third period, the 26-year old netminder denied the Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers at the right post.
“There are less shots being let up,” Shesterkin said through an interpreter. “The guys have been playing a lot harder defensively.
The Rangers have tightened up their game defensively over the past few weeks.
“I think everyone is just buying in,” Fox said. “We’ve had a goal from the start of the year where we want to be in the playoffs, we want to be playing for a Stanley Cup. It takes playing the right way.”
Part of that defensive improvement has made for a formidable penalty kill. 1 for 1 in this one extended that streak to 18 kills in a row in the past nine games.
The Rangers reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 2014-2015 season when they won a franchise record 53 games. The Blueshirts are 26-8-4 at MSG and have allowed the second fewest goals at home.
“It’s been a real good year, a lot of fun. We’ve got five games left and hopefully build on that, keep playing well,” Gallant said. “It’s great to have a great regular season like we’re having but it’s all about the next season.”
Playoffs, here they come!