CALGARY — Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal when the Rangers visit the Flames Thursday in the second game of their swing through Western Canada, and that was most likely predetermined, decided long before Alexandar Georgiev destroyed his goal stick after the Blueshirts fell behind 6-0 in the second period of Tuesday’s game against Edmonton. Coach David Quinn replaced Georgiev with Lundqvist shortly after that goal and the Rangers made an improbable rally that saw them score five goals in a span of 16:40 and get to within 6-5, before surrendering an empty-net goal and losing 7-5.
On Wednesday, Georgiev looked a little sheepish when he was asked about his stick-smashing display a night earlier.
“[It was] obviously frustrating,’’ Georgiev said after the Rangers’ practice at WinSport, the Canadian Olympic facility, in Calgary. “Tough game. Tough start. They’re a very skilled team, and we got off to a bad start, and it was a tough game to play afterwards. Lots of penalties in the second period, and they’re a good power play team. It is what it is.’’
Quinn had absolved Georgiev of blame Tuesday night for any of the goals he allowed. Three came on power plays (the Oilers were 3-for-6 with the man advantage) and four came on tips or rebounds or plays right in front of the net. The Rangers, Quinn said after the game, were “soft’’ around their net.
Georgiev, who wasn’t in the locker room Tuesday when reporters entered after the game, was asked if there was anything he could have done differently on any of the goals. “There is always something that could be done better,’’ he said. “Obviously, too many goals. I have to find a way to cut some of those.’’
Quinn on Wednesday chalked up the six goals allowed by Georgiev (on 24 shots), to “just one of those nights,’’ and said he fully expects the 23-year-old to rebound from the outing. He pointed to the night Georgiev had in Tampa Nov. 14, when he allowed five goals on 26 shots to the Lightning and was pulled in the first period, before re-entering in the third. In his next start in Montreal, the Rangers fell behind 4-0 before rallying to win 6-5. Beginning with that game, Georgiev went 4-1 in five starts, allowing nine goals on 194 shots (.954 save percentage) and posting two shutouts.
“It was a similar situation [to the Tampa game], and he came back and played great hockey after that,’’ Quinn said. “And that's what we know is gonna happen.’’
As well as he has played this season (10-8-1, 3.08 goals-against average, .908 save percentage, two shutouts) Georgiev is facing pressure in the form of Igor Shesterkin, the 24-year-old Russian who is playing at AHL Hartford, putting up great numbers there and pressing to earn a call-up to the NHL. Georgiev is resolved to put Tuesday night behind him quickly, and bounce back strong.
“I don’t think anything changed, in terms of me, as a goalie, before last night, and afterward,’’ Georgiev said. “I just have to keep working and things will turn around better next time.’’
Notes & quotes: Mika Zibanejad did not practice Wednesday after getting a "maintenance day," the Rangers said. His goal in Tuesday's loss in Edmonton capped a stellar month for the center, who went 10-7-17 in 15 games in December.