Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers looks on...

Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers looks on during the second period against the Florida Panthers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It wasn’t a classic goalies’ duel, not with the Rangers going 14:23 in the second period without a shot and the Panthers scoring once on an own goal and then adding an empty netter, not to mention having another potential score waved off for goalie interference.

But the Panthers 3-0 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden likely portended a stingy series from both Russian netminders, who have similar playoff statistics.

“I think there’s a game plan for every goalie,” said the Panthers Carter Verhaeghe, who flipped a centering feed from the left that the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere accidentally directed through Igor Shesterkin’s pads as he tried to defend to make it 2-0 at 16:12 of the third period.

“We want to get traffic and anytime a goalie can’t see a puck, we have a better chance of scoring. I think we can definitely do a better job of that. He’s a really good goalie and we just want to take away his eyes and get to the front of the net.”

Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves, including stopping Will Cuylle on a second-period breakaway and defenseman Braden Schneider hitting the right post on a first-period breakaway for his second shutout in 82 playoff games. Shesterkin stopped 24 shots.

Shesterkin is 8-3 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in the postseason while Bobrovsky, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, improved to 9-3 with a 2.17 GAA and a .909 save percentage.

Matthew Tkachuk beat Shesterkin to the glove side from the top of the left circle to open the scoring at 16:26 of the first period. But Shesterkin, and the Rangers, seemed to get a reprieve when defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s apparent goal from the left circle at 8:45 of the third period was overturned after the Rangers’ challenged. Ryan Lomberg established position in the blue paint and made contact with Shesterkin before getting pushed into the goalie by defenseman Ryan Lindgren.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said it was the “right call” because that’s the kind of protection he would want for Bobrovsky.

The overturned goal revived the crowd, which started chanting “Let’s Go Rangers.”

And, after the Rangers killed off Lafreniere’s hooking penalty at 10:28, they mounted their best offensive push with a wild scramble at the Panthers’ crease, Bobrovsky sliding all over the ice and Lafreniere hitting the left post with a mid-range shot at 12:51. “We had opportunities to score, it just didn’t go in,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. “We stayed even keel and continued to push. We came out and generated some chances in the third period. The goal getting called back was pretty big.”

But they could never solve Bobrovsky, who faced four shots in the opening 1:55 of the second period, then did not see another shot until defenseman Adam Fox got one on net at 16:18.

“I think you have to be a veteran goalie to do what he did tonight,” Maurice said. “Sit for a while and make huge saves and sense the last 10 minutes of the game. That’s where he has to be Sergei.”

More Rangers


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months