That goaltender Alexandar Georgiev has played so well down the stretch this season has not come as a surprise to Rangers coach David Quinn.
“No. I thought, in development camp [last June], I could see why we felt about him the way we did as an organization,’’ Quinn said Friday before Georgiev started against Columbus in the Rangers’ final home game of the season. “You could see it right from the get-go. He passes the eye test. And then when you get to know him more, you’re even more optimistic about what his future holds.’’
Georgiev was great again Friday, making 38 saves in regulation and overtime as the Rangers lost to the Blue Jackets, 3-2, in a shootout. Columbus clinched a playoff spot with the victory.
Free agent-to-be Artemi Panarin, whom the Rangers are expected to pursue this summer, scored the only goal of the shootout on the Blue Jackets’ second shot. Tony DeAngelo needed to score to keep the game going and was stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Panarin put the Blue Jackets ahead with 5:33 left in regulation, lifting a wrister over Georgiev’s right shoulder, but Pavel Buchnevich’s sharp-angle shot caromed off a stick and in with 6.1 seconds left to force overtime.
Chris Kreider scored his 28th goal at 14:27 of the second period and Columbus’ Ryan Dzingel tied it at 1-1 at 2:25 of the third.
Georgiev (13-14-3) has flourished since early February, when the Rangers decided to play him more as the team fell out of the playoff race. While he has surged, however, Henrik Lundqvist has struggled with reduced ice time, going 2-11-3 in his last 16 starts.
That has been hard to watch for everybody, including Georgiev. After last week’s 6-3 loss in Boston, Lundqvist sat for a while with his head buried in his hands, and Georgiev went over to console him.
“It’s pretty tough,’’ Georgiev said when asked about that scene. “This past season, I’ve had some games where it didn’t go so well, but at the same time, you can’t say that you played bad. And I just tried to support him after the game, because those goals — there wasn’t much he could do.’’
Though he is Bulgarian by birth, Georgiev grew up in Russia, where his family moved when he was a toddler, and he considers himself Russian. He has played for Russia in the World Junior Championships and is in the mix for consideration to play for Russia in this year’s World Championships. He has talked to the goalie coach but hasn’t yet been invited.
If he goes, he could be teammates with a future Rangers teammate, goalie Igor Shestyorkin, whose contract expires at the end of this season. He is thought to be planning on signing with the Rangers and coming to North America in the fall, which would make the battle for time in the Rangers’ net even more interesting next season.
Notes & quotes: Mika Zibanejad, who leads the team in scoring and was the only Ranger to play in every game this season, was voted the team’s most valuable player by the media. Jesper Fast was voted the team’s player’s player by his teammates. It is the fourth straight year Fast has won that award, which honors the player who exemplifies all the things a player needs to be . . . Quinn said the decision by Glen Sather to leave his post as team president won’t affect his relationship with Sather. “I’ve only known Glen for about nine months, but he’s certainly someone I’ve been able to lean on,’’ Quinn said. “The good news for all of us is he’s not going anywhere. Obviously, his responsibilities will change within the organization, but they certainly won’t change from my end of it. He’s going to be around, I’ll be able to lean on him, as will Jeff [Gorton, the general manager].’’