Bread and Better, Rangers Rally Against Islanders

AP Photo/John Munson

The Rangers had lost two in a row and were seeing their grip on the Metropolitan Division slipping away as they trailed the Islanders, 2-1 late in the third period, but their best player came up huge when they needed it most.

Artemi Panarin, who should be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, tied the game and then scored in the shootout as the Rangers rallied for a huge, 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon.

Guys need to step up in those moments and he’s [Panarin] a guy that we look to most of the time. He came through again, I don’t think anybody’s surprised,” Vincent Trocheck said.

The Rangers set a franchise record with their 54th win of the season and can clinch the Metro Division on Monday with a win against Ottawa or if Carolina loses to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. A win on Monday would also clinch the President’s Trophy, emblematic of the best record in the league.

Igor Shesterkin played one of his best games of the season as he made 34 saves, including some of the highlight reel variety.

A Rangers/Islanders game always provides a little extra excitement but this one had a lot more riding on it. “It was a hard fought game, we knew it would be. They’re battling for a playoff spot,” said Coach Peter Laviolette.

The pace was quick from the opening face off as the teams skated through an exciting but scoreless first period, however Kappo Kakko was called for a double minor for high sticking late in the period that carried over into the second.

The Rangers had just about killed off the four minute penalty but with 12 seconds left on the 5 on 4, Ryan Lindgren was called for boarding, giving the Islanders a short 5 on 3 power play and nearly six minutes with the man advantage.

The Rangers had generated a number of shorthanded chances during the PK and finally cashed in to break the scoreless tie.

Chris Kreider began a 3 on 2 rush into the Islanders zone and left a drop pass for Mika Zibanejad who found the trailer, Daniel Schneider. The Ranger defenseman fired a shot but Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin made the initial save but couldn’t control the rebound as Schneider was able to put it into the open net for a 1-0 lead.

I’ve seen that I could beat their guy up the ice so I thought I could jump,” Schneider said. “Just took a shot and it was a good rebound and it came right back to me, so I was lucky for that and I just slid it home.”

The Islanders appeared to tie the game less than a minute later on Pierre Engvall’s goal but the Rangers challenged and the play was ruled off side.

The Islanders tied the game with a little over eight minutes remaining in the second period. Jimmy Vesey turned the puck over near the blue line and Brock Nelson capped off a scramble near the Ranger goal to put in his 31st goal of the season that made it a 1-1 game.

Nelson struck again for his second of the game with :28 seconds remaining in the second period.

The Islanders were pressuring the Rangers behind the net. Hudson Fasching had the puck and tried a wrap around. Shesterkin couldn’t block the attempt and it came right to a wide open Nelson who buried the puck for his second goal of the game, 32nd of the season and a 2-1 Islanders’ lead after two.

It was a demoralizing play but the Rangers are used to and are confident playing from behind and that’s what their mindset was heading to the third period, but not without some huge saves by Shesterkin that kept the game tied.

He’s [Shesterkin] a big game player,”Trocheck said. “When we need him most it seems like he’s always stepping up and making the big saves to keep us in games and he did a lot of that tonight.”

Less than seven minutes into the third period, Panarin gave the puck away and Kyle Palmeiri fed a wide open Fasching who was stoned by Shesterkin with the save of the game.

With less than seven minutes left in the third, Adam Pelech was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked from behind by Panarin but Shesterkin made a huge stop.

The “Bread Man” made up for his earlier miscues with one of the biggest goals of the season.

With just over four minutes left in the third period, Trocheck won an offensive zone face off and got the puck to Panarin, who skated into the slot. Matthew Barzal tried to block the shot but Panarin was able to fire a wrist shot over the glove of Sorokin to beat him top shelf for his 48th goal of the season and a 2-2 tie.

The Rangers became a much better team on faceoffs this season and it paid off in this one. “It’s either you’re on the defense or you’re on the offense so that possession if you can swing that number to 55-45, you’re doing good things and the possession can come your way and that’s a perfect example,” said the Rangers coach.

The Rangers did not record a shot in overtime, while Shesterkin made four saves, including a sparkler with the glove to deny Barzal with eight seconds left to send the game to a shootout.

After it was 2-1, Shesty had to come in with some really big saves,” Laviolette said. “Sometimes we were pressing, sometimes we turned the puck over at the wrong time. The penalty shot, there’s probably a half a dozen key saves that he made at 2-1, he kept it that way.”

Panarin had the first chance in the shootout and made the most of it. The Ranger winger made a few moves before he beat Sorokin underneath his glove. After Shesterkin denied Palmeiri, Zibanejad had a chance to win it but Sorokin made the stop.

Shesterkin made the save on Nelson’s wrister to give Trocheck a chance to end the game. Trocheck skated wide to the right and then came in front before burying the puck past Sorokin to give the Rangers a huge come from behind win in one of the most exciting games of the season. “I was just trying to drag him [Sorokin] across, see what he opened up,” said Trocheck.

The Rangers will wrap up the regular season on Monday night and then it’s on to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We got a lot of work to do,” Laviolette said. “The playoffs is what we’re here for and we gotta get through this next game, make sure we do a good job playing that game and then we’ll attack that [the playoffs].”

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