LAS VEGAS — David Quinn is always searching for the right formula. The Rangers’ second-year coach is quick to mix up his forward lines in an effort to shake things up.
He changed up his lines Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights, but that wasn’t the story of this game. It was the change he didn’t make that stood out.
Quinn started Alexandar Georgiev in net for the third straight game, and the goalie rewarded him by making 38 saves in the Rangers’ 5-0 win in the opener of a four-game western road trip.
Georgiev, who kept the Rangers in the game while they were being dominated early, earned his fourth career shutout — and second in his last four starts — as the Rangers (15-11-3) improved to 6-2-1 in their last nine.
“He’s getting more confident,’’ Quinn said. “He’s very, very dedicated to being the best goalie he can possibly be, and he really gave us a chance to kind of calm ourselves down. And then I thought we did a good job in front of him, after the first 10 or 12 minutes. But those first 10 minutes, he certainly gave us a chance to kind of find our wits about us, and he’s been playing very, very well.’’
The Rangers led 2-0 after the first period despite being outshot 17-7. Georgiev (8-5-1) was a rock, and the Rangers got goals 14 seconds apart from Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider to stun the Golden Knights (15-12-5), who returned home to a loud and lively T-Mobile Center after a three-game trip to New York in which they took five of a possible six points (they beat the Rangers and Devils and lost to the Islanders in overtime).
The Rangers were outshot 38-25. “We knew they were coming pretty hard in the beginning . . . and it was just trying to weather the storm and survive,’’ Georgiev said. “And then our guys got the first — and right away — second goals, a really huge moment. And then, as the game kept going, we just kept playing better and better. A really great third period. That’s the way to shut it down. I’m thankful for that.’’
Second-period goals by Jacob Trouba (on the power play) and Jesper Fast made it 4-0, and after that, the Rangers never let Vegas get a sniff of getting back in the game. They allowed six shots on goal in the third period and added the fifth goal, from Mika Zibanejad on the power play.
Georgiev has allowed four goals on 151 shots (.974 save percentage) in his last four starts.
The Bulgarian-born, Russian-raised Georgiev was scheduled to start Thursday’s game in Columbus but wasn’t supposed to start on Friday at home against Montreal. However, with Henrik Lundqvist suffering from an illness of some sort on Thursday, Quinn decided to play Georgiev on Friday in the second night of the back-to-back and then again Sunday.
Still searching for combinations he likes after Zibanejad returned to the lineup after a 13-game absence because of an injury, Quinn has been shifting players around every game, and this time he changed up each of his four lines.
He put Panarin, Zibanejad and rookie Kaapo Kakko together late in Friday’s game, so he kept those three together as the first line Sunday. Then he moved Ryan Strome to the wing in order to elevate his two young centers, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden, to the second and third lines, respectively.
Chytil played between Strome and Kreider, and Howden was between Brendan Lemieux and Pavel Buchnevich. Fast skated on the fourth line with Greg McKegg and Brendan Smith.