For all the times Igor Shesterkin has bailed the Rangers out, maybe this time was one where the team picked him up.
Old friend Mats Zuccarello had gotten the better of Shesterkin early in the third period of Tuesday’s Rangers-Minnesota Wild game at Madison Square Garden, and that would have been tough for Shesterkin to swallow if that goal had been the game-winner. But it wasn’t.
The Rangers, down two goals after one period, and down one after Zuccarello’s goal at 4:33 of the third, and down two forwards after losing Chris Kreider and Julien Gauthier to upper-body injuries, fought back to tie the score midway through the third, and rallied to win it in a shootout when Kaapo Kakko and Artemi Panarin scored in the tiebreaker, and Shesterkin stopped Frederick Gaudreau’s attempt with his right pad to secure a 4-3 victory.
“We’re probably in that moment where we were last year, where even when we’re two goals down, we know that we played good hockey, and we work hard for the goals,’’ said Filip Chytil, who jammed in a loose puck off a goalmouth scrum to tie the score at 3 and force the overtime. “Sometimes it’s not that easy, because their goalie played great as well. But we worked for that. We scored important goals. We scored two goals in the shootout, and it’s two big points for us.’’
The victory was the fourth in the last five games for the Rangers (23-12-7), who bounced back after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period Saturday in an overtime loss to the Devils.
They had a chance to win it when they got a power play with 2:25 left in the five-minute overtime after Minnesota was called for having too many men on the ice. But they failed to score on the four-on-three advantage.
“We had that power play in OT and didn’t get it done there,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “We had a couple of looks at it and didn’t score but fortunately for us, Breadman (Panarin)’s pretty good in the shootout, and Kaapo Kakko was pretty good . . . I thought we deserved to win that hockey game the way we played.’’
Zuccarello broke a 2-2 tie with an unscreened shot that Shesterkin got his glove on, but failed to catch cleanly. The puck bounced up over the goalie’s head, and, with Shesterkin not knowing where it was, dropped into the goal.
But with 6:25 remaining and the Rangers down two forwards and pressing, a host of Rangers crashed the net and Chytil jammed in a puck to tie it at 3 and force overtime.
The Rangers trailed 2-0 after the first period on goals by Minnesota defenseman Jon Merrill (at 12:36) and Kirill Kaprizov (at 17:43). Former Ranger Ryan Reaves, playing against them for the first time since he was traded to Minnesota on Nov. 23, was credited with the second assist on the Kaprizov goal.
But K’Andre Miller’s breakaway goal at 2:37 of the second period got the Rangers on the board and Adam Fox shot on a two-on-one rush and beat Marc-Andre Fleury on the stick side at 15:50 to tie the score at 2.