Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin, left, and Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.

The second installment of what figures to be a lengthy NHL rivalry between the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin and the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin, longtime friends, KHL rivals and Team Russia teammates, exceeded the considerable hype.

Both were brilliant in the Islanders’ 2-1 win on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Sorokin stopped 29 shots, including a candidate for save of the season, and Shesterkin made 26 saves.

"Didn’t want to talk about it too much before the game and put that pressure on Ilya," Mathew Barzal said. "But I think everyone knows these two stars in New York City, both similar goaltenders. You see Ilya stretching out. Igor stretching out. It was fun to be a part of, honestly, to watch those two go at it tonight."

Sorokin, splaying backwards, reached out with his paddle to rob Artemi Panarin on a wide-open look from the left at 5:22 of the first period.

"It might have been one of the best, if not the best save I’ve seen in a long time," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "And I’ve been around a long time.

"Unfortunately, we expect that. Just as the Rangers probably expect that from their goaltender."

Before the game, Trotz speculated Sorokin-Shesterkin could come to define the heated New York rivalry the way Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin does the Penguins-Capitals.

"Yeah, it lived up to it for one game," Trotz said. "They’re just starting out and it’s pretty exciting for the game of hockey and this area, especially, because of the proximity."

It was only the second time Sorokin and Shesterkin had faced each other since coming over from Russia after the Islanders’ 3-2 overtime win at Nassau Coliseum on April 11, 2021. Sorokin made 24 saves in that game while Shesterkin, now a candidate for both the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie and the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, stopped 29 shots.

Thursday was only Sorokin’s second appearance at the Garden and he was much more prepared this time. He made his surprise NHL debut against the Rangers on Jan. 16, 2021 — the Islanders’ second game of last season — in a 5-0 loss after expected starter Semyon Varlamov was injured in warmups when he was struck by Cal Clutterbuck’s shot. Alexandar Georgiev started that night for the Rangers.

Sorokin and Shesterkin, both 26, have been friends since they were 17 and met at a Team Russia camp. Sorokin was born in Mezhdurechensk, Russia, and grew up in Novokuznetsk, about a 50-hour drive from Shesterkin’s native Moscow. Sorokin starred for CSKA Moscow in the KHL and Shesterkin did the same for rival SKA St. Petersburgh.

"Yeah, they were both great," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. "They both made some real good saves and [Sorokin] was outstanding. I remember a few, the save on Panarin in the first period."

In the second period, Sorokin made point-blank saves on Chris Kreider, Filip Chytil and Jonny Brodzinski before denying Kreider on a breakaway.

Shesterkin stopped Clutterbuck’s shorthanded breakaway just before Kreider finally connected on the power play at 13:38 of the second period. Shesterkin also stuffed Barzal’s short-side attempt on the power play at 18:01 of the second period and Brock Nelson at the post at 8:59 of the third period to keep the score tied at 1.

"That’s a great hockey game," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "Back and forth, lots of good chances on either side. Big saves on either side."

Sorokin improved to 21-12-7 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Shesterkin is now 29-8-3 with a 2.07 GAA and .938 save percentage but just 1-5-1 against the Islanders.

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