Plain and simple, this was highway robbery committed by Igor Shesterkin. It was an Igor Heist in Seattle. Without the evolving 25-year old Russian netminder, the Rangers would’ve been minced meat at Climate Pledge Arena. Instead, they can thank their unflappable goalie for the 3-1 win to start a four game road trip on the right foot. He made 31 saves to propel them to their fifth straight road win.
In their first visit to the brand new home arena of the Kraken on Halloween, the Rangers learned that you can’t take an opponent for granted. In their inaugural season, the expansion Seattle Kraken sure play hard for coach Dave Hakstol. Already having beaten the Predators, struggling Canadiens and Wild, they don’t get outworked much. They’ve been in most of their games so far. This wasn’t any different.
Following a good start thanks to the sizzling Chris Kreider, who took a Barclay Goodrow cross ice pass and blew a wrist shot by Philipp Grubauer at 3:38 for his team-leading seventh goal, the Rangers started to turn pucks over. Methodically, the Kraken began to take over the game by winning puck battles. They also drove the net and mixed it up. On one such play, Adam Fox was taken down in front of Shesterkin. Although he returned for a shift, he went to the locker room. That was a scare. Fortunately, Fox returned after missing a few shifts.
By the time the first period ended, shots were 9-8 in favor of Seattle. The trouble they had was getting pucks past the brick wall known as Mount Igor. That much was obvious throughout a lopsided second period that saw the Kraken dominate the play. With their aggressive forecheck picking up, they fired good shots on Shesterkin, who was in a zone. As the neutral zone turnovers mounted, that fed the Kraken’s transition. They put constant pressure on Shesterkin, who stood tall by making 12 saves in the hectic period.
The Rangers had an opportunity to increase their lead. But after Ryan Lindgren drew an interference minor on a feisty Brandon Tanev during a heated scrum, it was wasted away. After getting nothing done, Dryden Hunt hooked down Tanev, who’s become a folk hero in Starbucks country. He leads the team with six goals and his gritty physical style is very popular. He is a very active player that is easy to respect. Even if on the opposing side. The Penguins will miss him.
Fortunately, as the Kraken pressed the attack, Shesterkin was stopping them in their tracks. They didn’t convert on any of their four power play chances. When Shesterkin wasn’t making critical stops (8 for 8), he had help from a strong penalty kill that blocked 21 shots. The trio of Fox, Jacob Trouba and Patrik Nemeth combined for 11. That kind of rugged play was needed. Seattle out-attempted the Blueshirts 73-40 and outshot them 32-18. At one point, they held the Rangers without a shot for over 30 minutes.
The Kraken’s persistence finally paid off when Jordan Eberle was able to beat Shesterkin with a backhand at 13:46 to tie the score. On a good play in the neutral zone started by Adam Larsson, Jaden Schwartz was able to make a good feed for Eberle. He cut to the middle and got off a good backhand shot that surprised Shesterkin to tie it up. It was the former Islanders’ second goal as a Seattle Kraken.
Things heated up in the final portion. Playing for Nils Lundkvist, who Gerard Gallant avoided addressing to reporters as to why, Jarred Tinordi cross checked Riley Sheahan. That gave the Kraken a power play. But while on the power play, Calle Jarnkrok slashed Ryan Strome’s stick breaking it. That ended the Seattle man-advantage. However, the Rangers didn’t do anything. With an open shot, Panarin waited too long. Instead, he made a low percentage pass that caught them in a bad change for a bench minor. While he’s putting up points so far, some of Panarin’s decision making has been frustrating. He only got credit for one shot. Mika Zibanejad didn’t have one. Both will have to be better as the season moves on.
Despite being outshot 13-2, the Rangers entered the third still tied. A good position to be in on the road. Something Henrik Lundqvist alluded to during an intermission segment with Steve Valiquette and Bill Pidto, who showed off his butterfly in a funny segment. There are games you’re not going to be at your best. This was clearly one of those. It was stolen by the goalie. Shesterkin has already done it a few times in the team’s first nine games. He’s the biggest reason for their 6-2-1 start.
It took some time. But after another too many men on the ice minor that had Gallant fuming on the bench, the Rangers settled down and played better for the remainder of the game. It helps when you have a hot goalie standing on his head. Right after Shesterkin robbed a Kraken player on the doorstep with a sprawling pad save, Fox moved the puck up to Panarin. On just a great give and go, Panarin gained the Seattle blue line and drew attention before finding a cutting Fox in the slot for a quick snapshot that beat Grubauer with 8:50 left. It proved to be the game-winner.
There were no more undisciplined penalties. The Rangers also cut down on the mistakes. In fact, a strong shift from the fourth line of Kevin Rooney, Hunt and Greg McKegg allowed the second line to come on and apply pressure on Seattle. Those back-to-back shifts with under five minutes left really helped put the game away.
With under two minutes left, the Kraken pulled Grubauer for an extra attacker. They came very close to tying it. On a Mark Giordano shot, Yanni Gourde chipped a backhand that just missed. It hit the far goalpost and was swept out of harms way. There was one more sequence where Eberle seemed to have all day to fire a shot at Shesterkin. Instead, he played around with the puck long enough for a diving Zibanejad to block the attempt and clear the zone to Goodrow for an empty net goal that sealed it with 1:39 to go.
Goodrow has been contributing to the Rangers’ good start. Two of his three goals have been empty netters. However, Gallant knows he can use him in different roles. For the time being, the former Lightning Stanley Cup winner is playing up with Zibanejad and Kreider, who’s been the leader of the team. Goodrow is getting valuable time at five-on-five and shorthanded. He’s also out at the end of close games. That’s the kind of good overall player he is. In a game where not much was going on, Goodrow finished with a goal and assist, three hits, two blocks and went 6-and-4 on face-offs. He went plus-two in 16:16. His play shouldn’t be underestimated. So far, so good.
Next up is Vancouver. That’s on Tuesday, November 2. Start time is 10 EST. They’ll see what they can do against Thatcher Demko, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes.
THREE STARS OF GAME
3rd ⭐ Brandon Tanev, SEA (2 SOG on 5 attempts, 3 hits in 15:34)
2nd ⭐ Adam Fox, NYR (GWG at 12:10 of 3rd period, 4 blocks, +1 in 21:10)
1st ⭐ Igor Shesterkin, NYR (31 saves on 32 shots including 22 of 23 the final 2 periods)