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Igor Shesterkin makes 40 saves, Artemi Panarin scores in OT as Rangers top Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) takes

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) takes a shot against New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (Evan Buhler/The Canadian Press via AP) Credit: AP/Evan Buhler

TORONTO — Missing two key players from their lineup, the Rangers needed people to step up their games on Monday.

Igor Shesterkin certainly stepped his game up. Way up.

The goaltender made 40 saves and was the primary reason the Rangers were able to hang in there long enough against the Toronto Maple Leafs to get to overtime. They then pulled out a stunning 2-1 victory on Artemi Panarin’s first goal of the season at 3:48 of the five-minute session.

"He was incredible tonight,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said of Shesterkin, who has allowed one goal in each of the last two games. "He obviously stole us a couple of points in here tonight.’’

"He was pretty, pretty spectacular,’’ defenseman Jacob Trouba said. "We didn’t have our best game, and sometimes you need your goalie to steal one for you. He definitely did it tonight.’’

With Ryan Strome in COVID-19 protocol and Kaapo Kakko on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, the Rangers didn’t generate much offense for most of the game. They were outshot 38-19 in regulation, including 17-2 in the second period.

But Shesterkin kept them in the game long enough for Panarin to take a pass from Mika Zibanejad off an offensive zone faceoff and whip a shot past Toronto goalie Jake Campbell. That gave the Rangers (2-1-1) their second straight win on the current four-game road trip, which will continue Thursday in Nashville.

Panarin had managed only two assists and only two shots on goal in the first three games of the season, but Gallant changed his lines at the start of the third period and put Panarin with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. It seemed to work.

"Well, I had to do something,’’ Gallant said when asked about combining Panarin and Zibanejad. "After the second [period], we were looking at each other and saying, that obviously wasn’t good at all. So we wanted to change something . . . It worked out OK, and obviously in overtime, [Panarin] gets a big goal. So that was good to see.’’

Toronto, aided by two power plays, held the slight edge in play in the first period, outshooting the Rangers 12-10. But it was the Rangers who took the lead, on a goal by Zibanejad that wasn’t awarded right away.

Zibanejad stepped onto the ice on a line change, picked off an attempted clearing pass and fired a shot that clanged off the post and appeared to hit the crossbar and bounce out.

"I just kind of went off the bounce coming out of the net,’’ he said. "I felt like it was weird.’’

Play continued until there was a stoppage, when the play was reviewed and the goal was awarded. It was Zibanejad’s first goal of the season and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 13:49.

But the Maple Leafs began to pick things up after that, and Shesterkin was called on to make some difficult saves to preserve the lead — which did not hold up very long into the second period as Michael Bunting scored at 1:36.

The Rangers got an opportunity to re-take the lead when Toronto’s Travis McDermott was called for tripping, but the Blueshirts’ power play — without Strome and Kakko — produced one shot on goal.

The Rangers got a second power play later in the period, and that one produced zero shots on goal. For the game, they were 0-for-3 with the man advantage, producing two shots on goal.

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