Net Cane, Igor Brilliant in Metro Showdown

AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

It’s a little added motivation but at the end of the day, it’s just these are teams that we’re going to have to beat.” That was Vincent Trocheck, who summed up the Rangers biggest challenge and biggest win of the season to this point.

Igor Shesterkin was absolutely fabulous and Adam Fox scored the only goal of the game, as the Rangers earned a thrilling and hard fought, 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh last night.

Big game going in, real close in the standings,” Fox said. “We knew it was going to be a test for us and I thought we came out in the first real hard, got pucks to the net, got a goal. They had their chances and zone time and that’s going to happen but thought we battled hard and obviously a huge win.”

Shesterkin made 28 saves, including the last 23 after the Rangers took the lead, as he posted his second consecutive shut out and fourth of the season. “It [Goaltending] can make or break you and we’re fortunate you see Quickie [Jonathan Quick] last night and Shesty [Shesterkin] in back to back games here. Goaltending is giving us a chance to win every night,” Coach Peter Laviolette said.

The Rangers had chances to put the game away in the third period but Carolina goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov matched Shesterkin save for save in a final 20 minute stanza that kept you on the edge of your seat.

Even without Jacob Trouba and Matt Rempe, who was handed a four game suspension by the NHL earlier in the day as a result of his hit Monday night, the Rangers, who were on the second night of a back-to-back, matched the Hurricanes’ physicality, won most of the 50-50 battles, and showed the grit that has them as one of the top teams in the NHL.

One of those 50-50 wins led to the game winning goal.

With time winding down in the first period, Chris Kreider had the puck pinned to the left of Kochetkov, but Jack Roslovic, playing his third game with the Rangers, was able to back hand it out where it came to Ryan Lindgren, who fired a shot from the top of the left face off circle.

The puck deflected off of Kreider’s skate as he was crossing in front of the net and it went right to the right face off circle. Fox was able to get there first and fired it towards the net where it deflected off of former Ranger Brady Skjei’s skate and went into the net. For Fox, it was his 11th goal of the season with eight seconds remaining to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead after one.

I think we had a little bit more of a mentality of just get pucks to the net,” Fox said. “I was kinda looking to maybe hit Rosie [Rosovic], bank it off him or something and got a good bounce off that d-man.”

From there, it was the Shesterkin show as he made 23 more saves to preserve the shutout and a big win. “It was my mom’s birthday so I couldn’t play a bad game tonight,” Shesterkin said in English.

In the second period, Shesterkin made a brilliant save on Evgeny Kuznetsov who was open in front. Later, newly acquired Jake Guentzel, who was making his Carolina debut, was stopped by Shesterkin but the puck came to Kuznetsov and he was denied a second chance on a back hand attempt.

The Rangers weathered the storm (or the Hurricanes if you prefer) as they were under siege in the final two minutes. At one point, K’Andre Miller was on the ice for a 2:44 shift. “I thought the end of the second, we lost a little bit of wind but got it back in the third period, went back and forth for awhile and then we just hunkered down and played some good defense, so heck of a win against a good hockey team,” said Laviolette.

The third period was a goaltending clinic as both netminders were equal to the task. Shesterkin, with preserving the lead and Kochetkov, who did everything he could to keep Carolina in the game.

Early in the third, Shesterkin made the initial save on Skjei’s shot and then stopped Andrei Svechnikov on a turn around attempt. After Svechnikov hit the post, the game became wide open for a few minutes with end to end action and superb goaltending.

Artemi Panarin led a 2 on 0 rush and passed to Trocheck who was wide open but Kochetkov made the initial save. Alexis Lafreniere had a chance to put in the rebound but he overskated the puck.

Martin Necas, who may have been the Hurricanes’ best player on the ice, found Guentzel open in front, but Shesterkin was there to smother the puck and prevent the newest Hurricane from tying the game.

The play went back and forth as Kochetkov came up big on Roslovic’s breakaway to keep it a one goal game.

With less than two minutes left and Kochetkov pulled for the extra skater, the Hurricanes won the offensive zone face off and Brent Burns fired the puck towards the net. Sebastian Aho was stationed there for a tip in attempt, but Shesterkin made a huge save. Svechnikov tried a back hand but Shesterkin fell on the puck to force a face off.

That brutal January stretch for Shesterkin is a distant memory. In his last ten games, the Rangers netminder is 8-1-1 with a 150 GAA, .956 save percentage and three shutouts.

The win gave the Rangers a six point lead over the Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division as they continue to navigate a very difficult stretch of their schedule that has them playing playoff contenders right through the end of the month.

It’s a hugh stretch of our season with the teams we’re playing against,” said Fox. “The playoff race kind of shaping and teams fighting for spots and positions so a great win yesterday and to come back to back and battle the way we did, I thought it was impressive and pretty resilient out of the group.”

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