DENVER — With their first meeting this season having gone to a shootout, it seemed almost fitting that the Rangers and Colorado Avalanche would need to go to the tiebreaker again Friday to decide this one.
They did. And in the end, shootout goals by Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin against old friend Alexandar Georgiev, along with two saves by Igor Shesterkin, powered the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the injury-depleted Avalanche.
It gave the Blueshirts a sweep of their two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Denver and a three-game winning streak overall.
“I think Shesty feels pretty good now,’’ Panarin said. “It’s 1-1.’’
Shesterkin, who had been annoyed after losing to his old backup Georgiev and the Avalanche at the Garden on Oct. 25, made 41 saves in regulation and overtime Friday. He had two huge saves in overtime to get the Rangers (14-10-5) to the tiebreaker.
Shesterkin made a big glove save on Cale Makar with 1:43 left in overtime, then slid across left to right and did the splits to get his right pad on a back post tap-in try by Devon Toews at the buzzer.
“We found a way to win tonight with unbelievable goaltending,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “Obviously, that was the biggest key for us tonight. We didn’t play our best, but the goaltender was incredible.’’
“He was fantastic from start to finish,’’ defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “He made some huge saves. Even with one second left, he made a great save on the back door. I mean, we’re used to it at that point. He’s an incredible goalie, obviously. And yeah, he was dialed in tonight and the fellas are really happy for him.’’
In the shootout, Vincent Trocheck went first and missed, but Shesterkin made a glove save on J.T. Compher to keep the score tied. Zibanejad scored against Georgiev and Shesterkin saved Mikko Rantanen’s shot.
That set up Panarin with a chance to win the game if he scored. He had the only goal against Georgiev in the shootout the last time the teams played and beat him again. Panarin slowed up as he approached the net, almost coming to a stop, and tucked the puck around the goalie.
The teams were tied at 1-1 after two periods and played to a scoreless third, with each team getting one power play in the final period.
The Rangers had a right to feel as though they deserved more than that, as Barclay Goodrow appeared to be tripped from behind while on a partial breakaway early in the period. But there was no penalty shot nor even a penalty called on the play.
The new-look top line, with Zibanejad centering 21-year-old wingers Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko, had a rough first period, as they were pinned in their own zone on most of their shifts and were on for the Avalanche’s first-period goal at 14:38. Zibanejad lost a defensive-zone faceoff to Rantanen, who ended up blasting a one-timer off a pass from Alex Newhook through traffic and past Shesterkin for his 16th goal.
The Rangers were much better in the second period and tied it at 1-1 on a goal by the surging Braden Schneider. He joined the rush, took a drop pass from Panarin and whipped a shot past Georgiev at 4:56. The goal was Schneider’s fourth of the season and his fourth in the last 10 games.
“He’s playing great and he was outstanding,’’ Gallant said. “He’s a great kid and shooting the puck and joining the rush, so that’s what we want from him.”