Recap: Shesterkin, Kreider Pull Rangers to Game Seven, 5-2

Recap: Shesterkin, Kreider Pull Rangers to Game Seven, 5-2
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

Facing elimination in game six, the Rangers changed their line combinations, hoping to provide a spark to a team that desperately needed one.

Based on their first eighteen minutes of play, the Rangers looked like they were content to just go home, while the Devils appeared hungry to clinch. New Jersey gained the lead on a goal by Curtis Lazar. Damon Severson moved the puck point-to-point to Kevin Bahl, who tossed the puck on net. Shesterkin made the initial save through traffic, but Lazar was there to clean up the rebound.

Though the Devils on scored once, it’s hard to understate how poorly the Rangers played at five-on-five. They only managed four shots on goal and three of them came from beyond the circles. This is not the performance one hopes for from a team facing elimination.

But late in the period, Patrick Kane broke out after a Devils turnover and was tripped by Dawson Mercer, putting them on the powerplay. The Rangers capitalized with a game tying goal by who else but Chris Kreider. A one-timer by Mika Zibanejad deflected off Kreider and past Schmid. Kreider was fired up, and suddenly the Rangers finally showed some signs of life.

The Rangers carried the momentum in the second period, and played their best period of hockey since game two. They piled on chances while allowing very few in return, and they found themselves up two by period’s end.

Halfway though the period, Mika Zibanejad finally broke through with his first goal of the series. From behind the net, Kreider set up Zibanejad in the slot, and he fired a shot over the glove of Akira Schmid.

In the final two minutes, Kreider played playmaker once again. He fought off a check at the half boards,  carried the puck a few strides toward center, and slipped it into shooting position for Vladimir Tarasenko, who wired home his third of the series.

Up two, all the Rangers needed to do to stay alive and see another game was hang on for the third period. Instead, they weathered an early storm and notched another couple goals to firmly put down the Devils. The Devils pushed hard in the beginning, soundly slanting the ice in their favor. Shesterkin stood tall, eventually allowing the Rangers to catch the Devils going the other way. Barclay Goodrow started the rush and moved the puck wide to Vesey as they gained the offensive zone. Vesey took a shot that Schmid knocked down, and Goodrow tapped home the rebound for his first goal of the series.

The Rangers had one more first, when Braden Schenider clapped home his first career playoff goal that found its way through traffic to extend the Rangers lead to 5-1.

The Devils got one back after Trouba took a pointless roughing penalty. New Jersey pulled their goalie for the six-on-four, and Dawson Mercer picked up a powerplay goal. They continued pulling to play with an extra skater and forced Igor to make a few more incredible saves, but incredible saves are Igor's specialty. 5-2 remained the final.

. . .

I really thought the series was over in the first period, but Shesterkin kept the team on life support until Kreider woke them up. Zibanejad tallied a goal and an assist, and the Rangers need to him to continue rounding into shape for game seven. I really cannot understate how important Shesterkin’s play has been. He has been an absolute rock for the Rangers, and if they escape the first round, they will have him to thank above all else.

The Rangers and Devils will square off one last time on Monday.