Recap: Another Shesty Shutout Leads NYR to Gutsy Win

Recap: Another Shesty Shutout Leads NYR to Gutsy Win
Mar 12, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Jesper Fast (71) shot attempt is stopped by New York Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) and goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The closer we get to the end of the season, the more meaningful these games get. Especially when it comes to divisional match-ups and that’s what we had here tonight. A battle between the top two teams in the Metro, the Rangers took on the Carolina Hurricanes in the second half of a back-to-back in what became a gutsy effort from the Blueshirts that left fans on the edge of their seats for the entire sixty minutes.

1st Period:

For the past two games, it was the Rangers getting an early power play chance. This time around, it would flip as Jimmy Vesey tripped Jesper Fast off a face-off to give the Hurricanes a power play less than one minute into the game. The Rangers penalty killers were one of the highlights from their strong performance last night and they kept that momentum going with another good kill early on in Raleigh. Outside of that, it wasn’t a particularly eventful first half of the period as things were off to a bit of a slow start. As the game continued to get underway however, both teams locked into a very defensive heavy mindset which really limited chances going either way.

With just under seven minutes to go, Erik Gustafsson caught Andrei Svechnikov with a center ice hit in the Rangers zone. Both players seemed to have caught a good piece of each other which left each of them a bit shaken at first. Svechnikov clearly didn’t like the hit as he ended up going after Gustafsson shortly after which earned him a retaliation penalty that Jake Guentzel would have to serve. Svechnikov instead went straight to the locker room as he appeared to be hurting from the play.

This gave the Rangers their first look at the power play and it was practically useless as the Hurricanes typical aggressive style of killing penalties completely shut the Rangers down. They were unable to generate much of anything as Carolina continued to attack the puck and successfully cleared the zone every chance they got.

The Rangers best shift of the period came around the two minute mark of the period as the third line saw a couple of great chances with some help from the Fox-Lindgren pairing. Lindgren did a great job of moving the puck around at the point with Alex Wennberg keeping things going down low, getting a couple good attempts in the process. That line really has seemed to click early on and has been great for the Rangers as of late.

Building off that momentum, the Rangers kept things going and Vincent Trocheck had as good a chance as you could get as he found himself all alone on a breakaway. While his shot would go wide, the Rangers would still find a way to come out on top of the opening period. With eight seconds to go in the period, Adam Fox picked up a loose puck along the boards after a shot from his defense partner Ryan Lindgren deflected wide. On a tough angle, Fox let a hard shot go which managed to find its way through Kochetkov to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

Shots were 12-5 in favor of the Rangers at the end of the first twenty. While there were plenty of attempts going either way, neither side saw many high danger chances given how tight the two teams were playing defensively. The Hurricanes aggressive forecheck really held the Rangers back through the early parts of the period but as play went on, the Rangers were finding ways to pick up the pace and maintain strong possession and scoring chances.

2nd Period:

The second period would kick off with another early penalty, this time awarded to Carolina as Evgeny Kuznetsov tripped Erik Gustafsson. The Rangers had a slightly better go of things on the second power play chance. Vincent Trocheck had a really good point blank chance that required a big save from Kochetkov. However, Carolina was still very aggressive and continued to hold the Rangers off. A large part of that had to do with an incredible effort from former friend Jesper Fast which was a bittersweet reminder of why he was beloved by Rangers fans during his time in New York.

Not long after the power play came to an end, Igor Shesterkin came up with a huge save on Kuznetsov which resulted in the puck floating up and over the net. Despite being in enemy territory, this prompted some pretty noticeable “IGOR” chants as the Garden Faithful certainly travels well. This sequence would just be a precursor of what was to come through the rest of the period as Shesterkin was easily becoming the Rangers player of the game by the end of the second period. Shesterkin would come up with a second key save on Kuznetsov later in the period right off the pad.

Carolina completely took over the back half of the period and by the final five minutes of the second, were totally dominating the Rangers. The Rangers would register a shot on goal right around the six minute mark of the period and wouldn’t see another one until Jimmy Vesey put a buzzer beater shot on net. For over 13 minutes of play, the Rangers were held without a shot on goal and for well over a three minute stretch, Carolina dominated play to the point where several Rangers players were stuck on the ice for the entirety of those three minutes.

It was the perfect storm of Carolina playing good hockey and the Rangers starting to look like a team that was on the tail end of a back-to-back. Despite the intense pressure, the Rangers managed to fight off the Hurricanes and held on, albeit for dear life, to that one goal lead after forty minutes of play. Shots were now even at 16 apiece as Carolina had a much more active second period, proving they weren’t going to easily fall to this Rangers team.

3rd Period:

It was much of the same sort of pace to start the third with Carolina still getting the bulk of the chances. Shesterkin continued coming up with big saves but around five minutes into the period, things really opened up. Artemiy Panarin and Vincent Trocheck had a fantastic opportunity to extend the lead as they came down on a 2-on-0 but a great save from Kochetkov kept the score the same. Carolina then went the other way with it as Martin Necas and Jake Guentzel moved the puck around and almost beat Shesterkin right on the doorstep.

That sequence really altered the tone of the game for a moment as defense took a back seat and both sides raced up and down the ice generating offense. Things would gradually come back down as the period went on and before we knew it, defense was again becoming the priority, especially as the Rangers began to focus on holding tightly to that one goal lead on limited energy.

With two minutes to go in the game, Kochetkov went to the bench and the Hurricanes went to work. Barclay Goodrow had the chance to end it as he cleared the puck from the Rangers end of the ice but the puck would sail just wide of the open net. This prompted Carolina to use their timeout and through quite the battle through those final two minutes, the Rangers picked up the win and Igor Shesterkin’s shutout streak continued through a second game in a row.

So much of this game felt like playoff hockey and that’s exactly what you want to see from the Rangers at this point in the season in key match-ups such as this one. This was a massive game that could be looked back on as a difference maker in the final standings and the Rangers took care of business to hold strong to their position atop the Metro Division. An outstanding night from Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers defense as they extend the team’s win streak to three in a row.

The Rangers will continue their trek south as they’ll head to Tampa to take on the Lightning Thursday Night.