Recap: Igor’s 1st Shutout of the Season Sparks Rangers 5th Win in a Row

Recap: Igor’s 1st Shutout of the Season Sparks Rangers 5th Win in a Row
Feb 12, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Calgary Flames center Kevin Rooney (21) steps over New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) as he pushes and shoves against Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) and left wing Will Cuylle (50) and center Vincent Trocheck (16) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers looked to keep their hot streak going against a red hot Calgary Flames team, also on the hunt for their fifth win in a row. With two recent call ups taking the ice in warm-ups, one would get their “rookie lap” while the other would slot in on the fourth line which would get the start for the Rangers. Adam Edström, who made his NHL debut back in December, would slot in on the left side of Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey as Tyler Pitlick would come out of the line-up as a healthy scratch alongside Matt Rempe and Zac Jones.

1st Period:

One additional change to the Rangers lineup aside from Edström slotting in would involve quite a shake up to the team’s power play units. Just two and a half minutes into play, we would get our first look at them as Oliver Kylington was called for interference. The first unit would consist of Zibanejad, Kreider, Brodzinski, Wheeler and Fox with the second one made up of Trocheck, Kakko, Lafrenière, Panarin and Gustafsson. Nothing overly inspiring with either of these combinations as they are more or less constructed around the top two forward lines.

Neither unit would pose much of a threat as their only strong chance came on a pass from Artemiy Panarin to Alexis Lafrenière in which he ended up whiffing on the one timer. This would leave the Rangers empty handed on the power play yet again as their cold streak continued to 15 straight man advantages without a conversion. That accounts for six games since their last power play goal.

Around the midway mark of the first period, Igor Shesterkin saw his first big test of the night on a hard shot from Nazem Kadri in which he flashed the glove in a windmill-like fashion. This prompted an “I-GOR” chant from the Garden which had to act as a bit of a confidence booster for the Rangers netminder who is still trying to find his groove after an extended time off.

The physical aspect of the game certainly accelerated a bit as Jacob Trouba laid a massive hit on Jakob Pelletier which would end up sending him to the Flames’ locker room where he would not return for the rest of the night. Pelletier already had surgery on his shoulder this season which appeared to be the same one Trouba delivered the hit to.

Play would continue but a few moments later, the team’s would head to two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey as Will Cuylle and Martin Pospisil would go off for coincidental roughing minors. After going at it for the better half of a shift, Pospisil shoved Kakko at the end of the shift which led to Cuylle exchanging a couple of pushes with the Flames forward right between the benches.

As the period went on, the Rangers were seeing more chances but Jacob Markstrom was showing early signs that he was going to have himself a night. He came up with a couple of flashy saves, including a pair of massive saves on both Vincent Trocheck and Blake Wheeler right on the doorstep. These were just a couple of the highlights as he also managed to shut down Lafrenière, who was all over the ice in the first period, on more than one occasion.

Overall it was a pretty dominant start for the Rangers who spent the majority of the period moving the puck well and applying pressure on the Flames. Markstrom was without question the difference maker as he shut down all eleven shots on goal from the Rangers, robbing them on quite a few chances in the process. On top of those eleven shots, the Flames blocked eight more while the Rangers missed the net on several other chances, bringing them to nine high-danger scoring chances throughout the period. They would have to keep that pace up if they were going to find a way to beat Jacob Markstrom.

2nd Period:

The Flames came out with a little extra fire to start the second and nearly took an early lead as Connor Zary ripped a shot off the post. They would continue to become more involved as the period went on as Walker Duehr had a good chance from up close and Zary again created a play that led to a bit of a scramble in front of the net. Zary wouldn’t be the only one coming close to finding the back of the net as Barclay Goodrow ripped a shot off the crossbar following a play that almost left Calgary’s net empty all together as Markstrom chased his missing stick lost earlier that shift.

Nearing the midway point of the night, Martin Popisil continued to agitate the Rangers as he laid a hard hit on Artemiy Panarin. The two of them got into a bit of a shoving match from there which sparked a rare burst of emotion from Panarin in terms of physicality. Erik Gustafsson was quick to his teammates’ defense as he rushed into the scrum while Lafrenière was going at it with Brayden Pachal.

Somehow, Calgary ended up with a power play when all was said and done which sent the Rangers to the penalty kill for the first time this evening. It would be short lived as Jonathan Huberdeau tripped up Jacob Trouba which earned him two minutes in the box and sent the teams back to 4-on-4 play.

With about seven and a half to go in the second, Jonny Brodzinski made a great defensive play which moved the puck ahead for Kaapo Kakko to come up the right wing side of the ice. Kakko cut towards the net to try and move the puck past Markstrom but it would be Will Cuylle on the follow up as he jammed the rebound home to make it a 1-0 game. That third line continues to be excellent for the Rangers.

The Rangers wouldn’t do themselves any favors in trying to build off that momentum as they quickly took another penalty to send the Flames back to the power play. This time it was Kaapo Kakko taking down Connor Zary with a stick infraction to put them at the disadvantage. No harm no foul as the Rangers successfully killed off the penalty with some help from a couple of big saves from Igor Shesterkin.

Goaltending would be one part of the story as the Rangers would hold onto that 1-0 lead through the back half of the period and into the second intermission. The other part of the story would be the edge to the game that continued to escalate throughout several scrums in between plays. Through two periods of play, shots were 21-19 in favor of the Rangers who found the game’s only goal with both goaltenders having excellent nights.

3rd Period:

Shesterkin continued to have one of his best games in quite a while as he made another incredible save, flashing the glove arm which redirected the puck into the netting above the glass. He would have close to as busy of a period as he had in the second but overall the pace settled down a bit throughout the third. Just over the midway mark of the period, Blake Wheeler had a nice shift, batting away a potential rebound and drawing a penalty in the process that sent Pachal off for hooking.

So much for those changes to the power play as Peter Laviolette sent the usual power play one out there in what became the final man advantage of the night. Again, too much passing and an overall sloppy showing as the power play slump would continue through a seventh game.

K’Andre Miller had a grade-A chance to pick up the insurance goal with three minutes to go as he found himself on a breakaway at the end of a long shift. Unfortunately as a result, he would run out of gas and Markstrom again, would turn the chance away. The Flames were quick to go the other way with it and again, Shesterkin stood tall in net, coming up with a pair of massive saves on Blake Coleman that would pretty much save the game.

With a minute and a half to go, the Flames pulled Markstrom for the extra attacker and thirty seconds later, Shesterkin had a golden opportunity to put the puck on the empty net but was just a bit off. The Rangers held the Flames off and a great defensive play from Jimmy Vesey earned him the empty net goal to make it a 2-0 win for the Rangers. A truly outstanding performance from Igor Shesterkin who needed that win and his first shutout of the season so badly.

The Rangers have now won five games in a row as they continue to stand tall in first place in the Metropolitan Division. They’ll have a pair of days in between games as they’re back at it at the Garden Thursday Night to host the Montreal Canadiens.