Igor Shesterkin enjoyed his first career shutout and his teammates enjoyed watching him make save after save while they struggled to generate offense most of Tuesday night.
More importantly, Shesterkin’s dynamic performance helped the New York Rangers keep pace in the playoff race and they’ll aim for another win Thursday night when they host the New Jersey Devils in the second of four straight meetings with their cross-river rivals.
New York is 10-4-3 in their past 17 games, has 14 games left and is four points behind the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the East Division. The Bruins are hosting the New York Islanders on Thursday and have played two fewer games than the Rangers.
The Rangers were able to keep pace thanks to a 3-0 win that was a lot closer than the score indicated. Shesterkin made 27 saves, among them on Jesper Bratt 22 seconds in and four saves during a late New Jersey power play.
“Igor has been great,” New York’s Mika Zibanejad said. “He was obviously unbelievable last year as well, and we know what kind of goalie he is. I feel like he gives us a chance to win games and every night he comes up with big saves at the right time.”
Shesterkin is 5-2-2 in nine games since returning from a groin injury he sustained March 4 in New Jersey. For most of Tuesday, he protected a 1-0 lead before the Rangers added two goals in the third period.
Zibanejad continued his roll by scoring in the first period, Artemi Panarin scored the second goal and Pavel Buchnevich added an empty net goal to continue their respective hot streaks.
Zibanejad has 12 goals and 22 points in his last 15 contests, Panarin has eight goals and 25 points since returning from a two-week absence on March 13 and Buchnevich has nine goals and 17 points in his last 16 contests.
“We still have meaningful games to play here, and we want to continue to play those games,” Zibanejad said.
The Devils will spend their final 15 games trying to play the role of spoiler and trying to shake their latest skid. Tuesday’s loss dropped New Jersey to 2-7-2 in its past 11 games.
New Jersey has lost three straight marking its sixth losing streak of at least three games. The Devils are getting outscored 14-6 in this skid and took their third straight loss on Tuesday despite allowing 20 shots on goal.
“If you don’t score goals, you can’t win a game,” said New Jersey’s Nico Hischier after returning from a six-week absence due to a facial injury. “We got into our heads during a game. We had some opportunities and (our) goalie played well. But at the end of the day, we got to get guys there and we’ve got to get pucks there and try to get one of those dirty goals. We were close a couple of times. Obviously, it’s frustrating to not get one in.”
Besides its latest losing streak, the Devils have been outscored 15-4 in the last three meetings with the Rangers. During those games, the Devils have outshot New York 90-67.
While Hischier returned, the Devils may be without Pavel Zacha. Zacha’s 25 points are tied with Bratt for the team lead. and he sat out Tuesday with an undisclosed injury after getting hurt in the opening seconds of the second period of Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
–Field Level Media
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