(L-R) Chris Kreider #20, Frank Vatrano #77, K'Andre Miller #79...

(L-R) Chris Kreider #20, Frank Vatrano #77, K'Andre Miller #79 and Jacob Trouba #8 of the New York Rangers celebrate a second period goal by Kreider against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 05, 2022 in New York City.  Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

The fans in Madison Square Garden for Game 2 of the Rangers’ first-round playoff series against the Penguins held their breath for a minute or two as they watched goaltender Igor Shesterkin writhe in pain, then lay motionless in the closing minutes Thursday.

Shesterkin had been run into by Pittsburgh forward Jeff Carter outside of the goal crease and had fallen hard on his back. The game was secure at that point, with the Rangers holding a three-goal lead and just 2:04 remaining. But if Shesterkin was injured, well, that would change the outlook of the entire series.

Eventually, though, Shesterkin got up, took a drink, put his mask back on and finished the game. Carter got a penalty for goalie interference and Alexis Lafrenière got one for roughing after going after Carter. And the Rangers won, 5-2, to even their best-of-seven series 1-1.

Game 3 will be in Pittsburgh Saturday night.

Afterward, Shesterkin declared himself completely fine.

“I feel great,’’ he said though an interpreter. “I just fell pretty poorly, landed poorly.’’

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant was annoyed, to say the least, that Carter had skated into Shesterkin.

“I wasn’t too happy, obviously, in a game like that,’’ Gallant said. “I mean, there was no reason for it. And so, I was disappointed, them going after him a little bit like that. And Carter’s a good, honest player, but it just didn’t look good to me.’’

It all ended well for the Rangers, who got 39 saves from Shesterkin and a goal and two assists each from Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano to get their first win of the series.

After losing the series opener, 4-3, in triple overtime on Tuesday, the Rangers needed a bounce-back victory. Shesterkin gave them a chance to get it by keeping the Penguins at bay in the second period, and then frustrated them in the opening minutes of the third as Sidney Crosby and Co. peppered him with shots.

The Rangers led 3-2 entering the third, and Shesterkin preserved the lead, stopping all 16 Penguins shots in the period. Panarin, who assisted on the first two goals, by Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome, provided the Rangers with an insurance goal when he tried to backhand a pass into the Pittsburgh slot and the puck deflected in off Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson at 8:02 of the third period to make it 4-2.

“I was actually looking for [Jacob] Trouba and I was trying to get a pass to him, but accidentally hit the skate of the opposing player and it went in,’’ Panarin said through an interpreter.

Vatrano made it 5-2 a minute and 47 seconds later when he slipped by Matheson on a rush up the right-wing boards, cut in, and whipped a wrist shot over the right shoulder of the righthanded-catching, third-string Penguins goalie Louis Domingue.

Pittsburgh started the game with Domingue in net after backup Casey DeSmith had been forced to leave Game 1 in the second overtime because of a lower-body injury. No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry is already out with a lower-body injury, believed to be a broken foot.

Pittsburgh also was without forward Rickard Rakell and Brian Dumoulin, who both suffered injuries in Game 1. The Rangers were without defenseman Ryan Lindgren and forward Barclay Goodrow, whom coach Gerard Gallant said were “banged up.’’ Afterward, Gallant said Goodrow is “week-to-week" with a lower-body injury.

The Rangers were happy to get a couple of power plays in Game 2, which was something they didn’t see much of in the series opener when they got only one. They scored on the first chance when Strome tipped in a shot by Adam Fox at 2:59 of the second period.

“It’s about time,’’ Gallant said when asked about getting two power plays. “No, I was pretty happy we finally got some chances, for sure.’’

Strome’s goal broke a 1-1 tie, and Chris Kreider’s second goal of the series, a redirection of a shot by Vatrano at 12:06 of the second, put the Rangers up 3-1. But Crosby pulled the Penguins within 3-2 with a brilliant effort to get to the slot, beat Justin Braun to a rebound and get that past Shesterkin at 18:34.

The teams were tied 1-1 after the first period, with Copp and Jake Guentzel exchanging goals.

More Rangers