Igor Shesterkin #31 of the Rangers is injured during the third...

Igor Shesterkin #31 of the Rangers is injured during the third period against the San Jose Sharks and is helped off the ice at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 3, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant entered his postgame news conference, sat down and didn’t bother waiting for a question.

"They’re telling me it’s not as bad as it looks, so get that out of the way,’’ he said.

He was talking about the injury suffered by goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who was forced to leave Friday night’s 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden early in the third period with an apparent right leg problem.

Backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev finished the game, playing the final 14 minutes and 52 seconds and making nine saves to help the Rangers earn their fifth straight victory and ninth win in the last 10 games.

The Rangers (15-4-3) were leading 1-0 when Shesterkin dived to the ice, trying to cover a loose puck in front of his goal crease during a mad scramble. He couldn’t cover it, but fourth-line forward Ryan Reaves managed to get control of it and skate to safety.

Shesterkin remained down, though, and the Rangers and the fans held their breath as athletic trainer Jim Ramsay came onto the ice to attend to the goaltender. Television replays did not appear to show anyone hitting Shesterkin during the scramble, but he nevertheless needed to be helped off the ice and into the locker room, unable to put any pressure on his right leg.

According to Gallant, though, the report he got from the medical staff was that Shesterkin suffered nothing more than a "minor lower body’’ injury. Nothing to worry about, Gallant said he was told.

The Rangers still had a game to win without Shesterkin, who has been their best player this season. He earned the victory, giving him 13 wins, which tied him with Toronto’s Jack Campbell for the most in the league.

The Rangers got a power-play goal by Ryan Strome at 6:03 of the first period.

With San Jose playing the second game of a back-to-back — they beat the Islanders in overtime Thursday night at UBS Arena — and Shesterkin and the defense playing solidly, the prospects of protecting that lead seemed pretty good.

But losing Shesterkin and having to put Georgiev in goal changed everything.

Georgiev has struggled this season, and the better — and more — Shesterkin has played, the worse things seemed to get for Georgiev.

He was pulled from his last start, Nov. 21 against Buffalo, after allowing four goals in two periods, and he carried a 4.08 goals-against average and .858 save percentage into Friday’s game. Then, not long after he entered, the Rangers were forced to kill a tripping penalty to K’Andre Miller.

Georgiev made a save on the penalty kill that drew chants of "Georgie! Georgie!’’ from the crowd.

"Coming in on that power play was really tough, but he made three great saves and he looked solid,’’ Gallant said. "I was really happy, and it’s a good opportunity for him, obviously, to step up tonight and play like that.’’

That the Rangers were able to win despite losing their No. 1 goaltender and best player speaks volumes about how well the team is playing right now.

"When things are going well, obviously, the morale is pretty high, the confidence is pretty high,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said. "We have four lines and three ‘D’ pairs that everyone trusts to do their job, and whether it be a big defensive play [or] creating a chance offensively, I think you’ve seen different guys contributing.

"You never want to lose a guy, someone who’s important to the team,’’ he said. "But at the same time, those things happen. And you’re going to need your guys to step up.’’

More Rangers