Recap: Shesterkin & Special Teams Set Rangers Up For Sunday Sweep

Game 3’s are among the most important in a playoff series. The first game on opposing ice, the first following some travel. Regardless of how the series has played out prior to puck drop, they provide a major opportunity for both sides and for the Rangers tonight, it not only gave them the chance to take a commanding lead on the series, but gave them the chance to get one step closer to putting some demons from last season to bed. Sure enough, they took care of business. Let’s break it down:  

1st Period:

With probably the best pace we’ve seen at the start of a game in this series, Game 3 was underway. The Rangers wasted no time getting their offense going and before we knew it, they were out-shooting the Capitals 7-3. Practically every line got off to a good start, getting some type of offensive zone chance going, controlling the puck well in the process. 

Just over five minutes in, despite the good start for the Rangers, it would be Washington striking first. John Carlson let a weird flutter of a shot go from the point that gave Igor Shesterkin some trouble, causing him to whiff on the save to give the Caps an early 1-0. Thankfully, it wouldn’t phase the Rangers as just 34 seconds later, it was Chris Kreider getting them back to square one. A strong shot from Mika Zibanejad found Kreider perfectly in his office to redirect into the back of the net, making it a 1-1 game. 

That’s how you respond in the playoffs. It also might have been the longest stretch we’ve gone to start a game without a penalty but as I’m sure you can guess, that wouldn’t last long. Just two minutes after the Kreider goal, Ryan Lindgren was awarded the first penalty of the night for cross-checking Beck Malenstyn. Once again, the penalty would work in favor of the Blueshirts. A great breakout from the Rangers created a short handed odd man rush where Vincent Trocheck fed Barclay Goodrow, allowing him to sneak a quick shot past Charlie Lindgren, 2-1 Rangers. 

You can say a lot of things about this Rangers team early in their playoff quest but one of the most impressive things has to be their strength on the penalty kill. You almost feel more confident with them on the ice then you do at even strength, perhaps even the power play. If you do feel that way, you’d feel pretty good about the rest of the period as this would be the first of several Rangers penalties in the first twenty minutes. 

With about eight minutes to go, it was once again Matt Rempe heading off to the penalty box for absolutely laying Trevor van Riemsdyk out. Rempe was called for interference and again, I don’t want to harp on the officiating but this is playoff hockey. Finishing your checks is a part of the game, that’s not a penalty. 

Felt more like a situation where the officials saw the jersey number 73, saw a big hit and decided to put the arm up. Alas, nothing you can do about it except kill the penalty and that’s just what this team did. 

The call would go the other way about a minute after Rempe returned to the ice as Tom Wilson was called for interference on a hit against Erik Gustafsson behind the Rangers net. The Rangers got off to a good start on their first power play but once the Capitals were finally able to clear the zone, the puck spent more time sailing to the Rangers end of the ice than it did posing threats to the scoreboard. 

There would be one more penalty for the Rangers to fight off at the end of the period as Alex Wennberg was called for hooking Max Pacioretty but it wasn’t anything the Rangers couldn’t handle. Shots were 10-8 in favor of New York to end the first period. The Rangers also led the game in attempts, hits, high danger chances and expected goals for. Capitals were winning more of the face-offs but neither team capitalizing on the power play would be the big takeaway. The Rangers success on the penalty kill would be the difference maker as they took a one goal lead into the first intermission. 

2nd Period:

Trevor van Riemsdyk would not return to the game following the hit from Rempe and it wasn’t soon after the power play to Washington came to an end that some of the opposing tough guys wanted a piece of the Rangers rookie. Rempe’s first shift of the period led to a Rangers icing but prior to it, he had both Tom Wilson and Dylan McIlrath in his ear, wanting a piece of him to defend their teammate. Wisely, for more reasons than one, Rempe would not entertain either of them. Between having the lead in the game, the series, and the fact that Rempe was at the end of a long shift, there’s no reason to risk giving up any momentum there. 

Once the Rangers settled down a bit, they found their way back to Washington’s zone and had a couple of dominant shifts resembling how they started the game. Momentum would quickly and briefly go the other way as Max Pacioretty had a grade A chance right in front of the net that required potentially the save of the series up to this point from Igor Shesterkin. 

The Rangers were back to the penalty kill just over the midway point as Erik Gustafsson took a stupid slashing penalty in the offensive zone. This was without question Washington’s most threatening attempt with the man advantage as the puck spent the majority of those two minutes in the Rangers end of the ice. Soon after the team’s returned to even strength, the Rangers would get their second chance on the power play as Kaapo Kakko was tripped up by Alexander Alexeyev. 

This would be a massive opportunity for the Rangers who were in desperate need of an insurance goal. Low and behold, a perfect little give and go from Trocheck to Zibanejad down low came back to Trocheck right in front of Lindgren who left space for Trocheck to beat him short side, extending their lead to 3-1. 

Frustrations from Washington were soon to follow as Nic Dowd took another penalty on the very shift that followed the power play goal. As the whistle blew, Malenstyn let a shot go which sparked a reaction from Kakko and quickly gathered a crowd. The initial penalty to Dowd for ripping Miller’s helmet off would stand but his participation in the scrum earned Washington an additional penalty to match Miller’s roughing penalty. This gave the Rangers their third power play of the night, an even better chance to really put things away. 

The Rangers wouldn’t convert but would hold the Capitals off to close out the second with minimal stress. There would be one scare as an Alex Wennberg giveaway gave Hendrix Lapierre as good a chance you could get but another crucial save from Igor kept the Capitals to one. It was a quieter period in terms of getting pucks on net as the teams split seven apiece with the Blueshirts having the slight advantage in the total tally. 

3rd Period:

The Rangers had a solid, albeit conservative start to the third but after two and a minutes, it was another penalty, this time to Barclay Goodrow for cross-checking. That one is on Goodrow there. Granted, those types of battles happen all night long in the playoffs, there’s no reason to risk it at that point in the game. There would be a delay before the Washington power play got under way as a previous collision involving Rempe knocked the glass out of place. 

It would be another successful kill for the Rangers but they were really tempting fate with all the penalties. Sure enough just two minutes after Goodrow returned to play, Will Cuylle would take the Rangers seventh penalty of the night as he was sent off for boarding. At this point, you cannot be taking penalties. Regardless of the calls, you can’t take seven penalties in a night. Of course the Rangers did and continued to kill them off but it was costing them. It would take well over 16 minutes of play in the third period before they were credited with a shot on goal. 

The Rangers caught a bit of a break in the final stretch as Beck Malenstyn was called for holding K’Andre Miller as the puck was coming out of the zone. With roughly three and a half minutes to go with a two goal lead, it was the perfect time for a power play to control play through the end. As soon as the penalty ended and the Capitals were able to gain possession, they pulled Lindgren for the extra attacker. Which brought us to another episode of will today be the day Igor Shesterkin gets his goal? 

It would not, but man would that have been something. 

The final horn sounded which gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead on the series. We stressed the importance of the Rangers taking care of business on the road and that’s exactly what they did. Far from perfect, but playoff wins rarely are. The Rangers will now have the chance to sweep Washington on the road as Game 4 will be Sunday Night at 8.