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Igor Shesterkin (Via Hartford Wolf Pack)

Hockey

Rangers Win in Shesterkin’s Debut at Madison Square Garden

There was some uncertainty around Rangers fans last night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers were coming home to play the Colorado Avalanche after losing three straight games on the road. Furthermore, rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin was getting the start! NBCSN Hockey Analyst Patrick Sharp remarked that Shesterkin was “being thrown to the wolves so to speak” on the pre-game show.

The game started out poorly for New York. The Rangers struggled to alleviate the pressure from the Avs on their offensive zone. After just four minutes gone by, the Avs struck first. The Rangers could not clear the puck from their zone. Avs d-man Samuel Girard turned around and flung a wrist-shot on the ice towards the Ranger goal. Avs forward J.T. Compher tipped in the shot over Shesterkin’s shoulder and just like that, the Rangers were down a goal early.

Shortly thereafter, Rangers rookie Adam Fox tried to make a spin-move to avoid one of the game’s best scorers Nathan MacKinnon. Instead, Fox forgot the puck and left it to MacKinnon who went in on a breakaway and deked out Shesty to make it 2-0. The Rangers had carried over their habit of starting games terribly on defense from their west coast trip and Shesterkin had conceded two goals on the first four shots he faced.

As the Rangers typically do, it took falling behind to wake them up.  While a delayed penalty was called against Colorado, the Rangers controlled the puck and put an extra attacker on the ice. Brady Skjei took a one-timer from the point, which was saved by Colorado goalie Phillip Grubauer. The rebound came out to Filip Chytil, but Grubauer denied Chytil with his outstretched pad.

On the power play, Ryan Strome made a pass to Chris Kreider standing just to the left side of Grubauer. Kreider tipped the puck niftily through Phillip Grubauer’s legs to cut the Avs’ lead to 2-1 at just under nine minutes past.

With five minutes remaining, Anthony DeAngelo made a quick pass that even surprised its recipient Mika Zibanejad, who pump-faked and then sent a sprawling wrist-shot past Grubauer to tie the game at two.

This game definitely had some feistiness, which would come to a boil with just under four minutes left to play in the first period.

Ryan Lindgren leveled Donskoi with a clean shoulder hit and the Avalanche player had to leave the ice slowly. Avalanche tough guy Nazem Kadri instigated a fight with Lindgren and was given a two-minute penalty and a ten-minute game misconduct. Lindgren was taken out of the game with a facial laceration for “precautionary reasons and should be fine” said Head Coach David Quinn. Joonas Donskoi had to leave the game with an upper body injury.

In the second period, the game settled down, but the Blueshirts would find the important next goal to take the lead.

At eight minutes gone by, Artemi Panarin entered Colorado’s zone with speed, went around the net and passed to Adam Fox on the boards. The 21-year-old Fox then calmly laid off a pass to Skjei who took a huge wind-up and unloaded a one-timer that beat Grubauer, who was screened by Jesper Fast, clean to the upper-right corner for his sixth goal of the season.

Four minutes later, J.T. Compher scored his second of the game to tie the game at three goals. The Rangers responded late in the second. Ryan Strome scored his 12th of the season. Also, Strome had his third multi-point night in the last five games.

The Rangers survived the third period thanks to Shesterkin’s steady play in net. The 24-year-old Russian became just the fifth goaltender in Rangers’ franchise-history to win in his NHL debut and joins Ranger great Mike Richter.

Brady Skjei and Ryan Strome led the team in ice-time, while Artemi Panarin was named the first star of the game thanks to a three-point performance, which he capped off with an empty-net goal to seal victory. Jesper Fast had a career-high three assists and Tony DeAngelo added two assists.

The Rangers now head into a stretch where they will play 10 out of 13 games on home ice. The Blueshirts will be at home tomorrow night to play the New Jersey Devils at 7:00 PM.

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