Good teams find a way to win when they’re not at their best. The Rangers found a way.
Vincent Trocheck scored the go ahead goal on the power play in the third period and Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves including a huge stop of a penalty shot, as the Rangers pulled out a 2-1 win over an improved Arizona Coyotes team in the home opener at the Garden last night.
Shesterkin was not pleased with his play last season and was determined to play a lot better this year. So far, mission accomplished. The 27-year old has been sharp in three games this season but he had to make some big saves in this one, none bigger than the penalty shot save he made in the third period.
The Rangers had the lead with less than five minutes remaining when Arizona’s Jason Zucker had a breakaway. Barclay Goodrow tried to prevent the scoring chance but he literally tackled Zucker and a penalty shot as called.
After Zucker made his move, Shesterkin stood his ground and made a huge save to preserve the lead and post a 4 for 4 career mark in facing penalty shots.
The save gave the Rangers some momentum and the crowd of over 18,000 was fired up. “Great atmosphere, great building. This is what you miss during the summertime I think,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said.
“There’s no question that a penalty kill or a power play can infuse life into a player, a team, a building, a period,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “That was a big moment in the game, you need a save and he certainly gave us one.”
With the score tied at one in the third, Arizona’ Matt Dumba cross checked Ryan Lindgren, so the Rangers went on the power play.
Artemi Panarin took a pass from Adam Fox and fired a shot toward the net with traffic in front. Trocheck deflected it past Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram for his first goal of the season to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 8:26 of the third period.
It was the Rangers third PP goal of the season in 10 chances. “Mika [Zibanejad], Bread [Panarin] and Foxey are moving a lot up top,” Jacob Trouba said. “They’re creating a little bit of confusion for the PK, then I think after that it’s just simplicity. I think we’re shooting a lot more pucks, getting pucks back. Playing a little bit more like a five on five mentality.”
Shesterkin had to make some tough saves early on because the Rangers started slow but the top line got them on the board first.
Kappo Kakko chipped the puck out to Mika Zibanejad who broke out on a two on one. Skating down the right wing side, Zibanejad held the puck as long as he could before he passed cross ice to a cutting Kreider who put it in the open net past Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram for a 1-0 lead at 14:11 of the first period. Zibanejad and Kakko had the assists on Kreider’s goal that was his first 5 on 5 and his fourth of the young season.
Kreider is leading the team with five points (4G, 1A). Panarin has four points (1G 3A) while Zibanejad and Fox each have 4 assists.
The Rangers labored through a sluggish second period where they only registered four shots as the Coyotes tied the game.
With Braden Schneider in the penalty box for holding Arizona’s 19-year old phenom Logan Cooley, the penalty killing unit had trouble clearing the puck. The Coyotes took advantage of the fatigued four- man unit on the ice and tied the game on Clayton Keller’s first goal of the season at the 5:00 mark.
It was the only blemish on the Rangers penalty killing unit as they killed off four other Arizona power play opportunities. “I think overall, defensively our game has been really solid,” said Trocheck. “Obviously, Shesty [Shesterkin] made some really big saves. PK was huge, big 5 on 3 [kill]. We found a way to win.”
Shesterkin had to come up big in the second period as the game began to resemble one from last season when the Rangers seemed to be confused and dazed at times. With a little over four minutes left, Cooley, the third overall pick of the 2022 NHL Draft, beat the defenseman down the right wing boards and was stopped in front by Shesterkin.
Late in the period, Panarin, who has played very well in the early going, was denied a breakaway when the puck accidentally caught the skate of referee Kelly Sutherland in the offensive zone. A few moments later, Alexis Lafreniere was called for slashing and Ryan Lindgren was called for a misconduct penalty after he fired the puck at the boards in frustration, giving the Coyotes a 5 on 3 advantage for a full two minutes.
“You’re probably gonna give up a couple of opportunities, a couple of chances,” Trouba said. “Just gotta be good, try to stay in the lanes and force the shots from the outside. Thought we did a pretty good job of it. “
The Rangers killed off 1:19 of the two-man advantage as the second period ended. Then, they opened the third period by killing off the remaining 41 seconds in the two-man advantage and then retook control of the game before getting the go ahead goal.
“We came out in the third period and started to press again, started to push. For me, that was a real good sign after the second not going the way we want, not playing as much five on five as we wanted,” Laviolette said.
In the final minute, Arizona pulled Ingram and Keller threw the puck in front but Shesterkin was able to use his stick to poke the puck away.
Things got testy at the end. After the final faceoff, Alexander Kerfoot and Ryan Lindgren were pushing and shoving. Shesterkin got involved when he intercepted Matt Dumba. A couple of minor fights broke out and Dumba wanted to go at Trouba as a total of 66 penalty minutes was handed out after the buzzer sounded.
The final score and the way the game was played was something that Trouba feels will serve the Rangers well this season.
“We can win games 2-1. I think that’s a big confidence boost to have in a team,” said the Rangers captain. “We know we have a goalie comes up with a huge save when we need it. The ability and the confidence to win a game, 2-1, you have that in ya. That’s an important thing for the team.”