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Recap: Vasilevskiy Outduels Shesterkin, 2-1 (SO)

Goalies gonna goalie.

New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/NHLI via Getty Images

After a sloppy performance against the Caps, the Rangers looked to right the ship against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night. The big story before the came was that Alexis Lafreniere would sit out as a healthy scratch in order to get Sammy Blais back in the lineup. An interesting choice, to say the least. The big story during the game was the play of Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy, both of whom stood on their heads while facing 40-plus shots on goal. It took until the sixth round of the shootout, but Vasilevskiy ultimately outdueled his countryman to give the Bolts a 2-1 victory.

In the first, the Rangers weathered some early Lightning pressure and went ahead 1-0 midway though the period. Kaapo Kakko attempted to moved the puck to Chris Kreider from below the net, and the puck ended up squirting to Mika Zibanejad in the high slot, and he hammered home his sixteenth goal of the season.

Neither team would score again until the third period, but it wasn’t for lack of chances. The game also got a bit chippy throughout, with a fair amount of scrums and shoving between whistles. The Lightning seemed to have tied the game for a moment, but the goal was overturned due to perhaps the most obvious goaltender interference call in the world.

After all that, the Lightning finally broke through early in the third. Moments after Nikita Kucherov hit the post with a wrister, Steven Stamkos found Brayden Point on a pass through the slot, allowing the center to bank the puck off Shesterkin and into the goal. It was Point’s twentieth goal of the season.

With both goalies at the top of their game, we went to overtime. The Rangers had a great opportunity with a four-on-three powerplay after Filip Chytil drew an admittedly weak penalty on Victor Hedman, but they failed to take advantage of it.

In the shootout, Brayden Point put the Lightning ahead, but a quick release by Artemi Panarin, who is now three-for-three on shootout chances this season, kept the Rangers alive. Kakko came within inches of winning the game for the Rangers, as he seemed to have Vasilevskiy beat, but his backhander hit the post, because of course it did. This gave Alex Killorn the chance to play hero, and he did, using a slight hesitation to set up a quick, well-placed snap shot for what would be the game winning goal.

The Rangers came away with a point, and generally seemed to have a bit more life to them, but it wasn’t enough to win. The teams combined for nearly nine xG, so the fact that each netminder allowed only one non-shootout goal is quite impressive.

With their last game of 2022 in the books, the Rangers will look ahead to their January 1 matchup against Marc Staal and the Florida Panthers.