Sports

Rangers yank Igor Shesterkin after disastrous first period

You would assume Rangers coach Gerard Gallant wouldn’t be so daring as to start Alexandar Georgiev in Game 4.

Likewise, you would assume that Igor Shesterkin would not turn in a repeat performance of Saturday night’s, which saw him give up four goals on 15 shots in the first period before the game’s narrative went up in smoke over the following 40 minutes.

And at least on the first count, it seems you would be correct, as the Rangers coach did nothing to spark a controversy following the Rangers’ 7-4 loss in a Game 3 that saw Shesterkin pulled going into the second period.

“It’s 4-1, you want to change momentum a little bit sometimes and Igor’s been outstanding,” Gallant said. “Really you look at it right now and he’s played 10 periods in the last 4 ¹/₂ , five days, whatever it is. So I thought it was a good time to jump-start it and fortunately for us we battled back in the second and tied it up.”

Georgiev did nothing particularly memorable, saving 19 of 20 shots in relief. His best moment came early in the third, when he stopped Sidney Crosby on the doorstep twice. Later on, he was beaten by Danton Heinen short side for the game-winner at 11:02. For Gallant and the Rangers, though, this equation is about Shesterkin.

Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) blocks a shot in the second period.
Corey Sipkin/Gist Vile

Because with Penguins fans delivering a singsong chant of his name through the first 20 minutes, Shesterkin became a mere mortal.

Whether a result of the 124 shots Shesterkin faced through the first two games, a rare outlier performance or some other reason, he was undeniably not himself on Saturday. Even if not for the four goals Pittsburgh scored on him that would have been evident from Shesterkin’s near failure to cover up a harmless Jeff Carter shot towards the end of the first period.

On the Penguins’ second goal of the night, Shesterkin all but kicked the puck in himself. On the third, he seemed out of position after Evan Rodrigues’ initial shot hit off the end boards, with Rodrigues following his own shot for the goal.

Evan Rodrigues #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores past Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on May 7, 2022 in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins’ Evan Rodrigues scores past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin.
NHLI via Getty Images

Gallant noted that two of Pittsburgh’s goals came on “lucky bounces” and lent credence to the explanation that Shesterkin was simply tired.

“Igor’s been our MVP all season as everybody knows, and in the playoffs,” Gallant said. “I thought we’d give him a little rest tonight and hopefully spark our team and it worked.”

The Rangers did Shesterkin no favors, and were out of sorts themselves for the first 20 minutes. Braden Schneider’s turnover that led to Rodrigues’ second goal hung Shesterkin out to dry, a fact that doesn’t change with the knowledge that Shesterkin has often gotten the Rangers out of those situations all season.

Shesterkin cannot always be a superhero, though he plays one on TV.

If the triple-overtime loss in Game 1 didn’t prove that Shesterkin cannot win the Rangers this series all by himself, then Saturday surely did.

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