Rangers Give Shesterkin His Shot

Igor Shesterkin made his Broadway debut on Tuesday night with the New York Rangers. After a stellar first half of the season with their American Hockey League affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers decided to call him up Monday and throw him into the fire against the high octane Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche were the second-highest scoring team in the NHL going into last night’s game and second place in the Western Conference.

Shesterkin, from Moscow, Russia, who turned 24 last week, is 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds. In his first AHL season and first in North America, he’s put up stellar numbers, leading the league in goals-against average (1.93), was second in save percentage (.932) and tied for third in shutouts with three. He was also second in wins with a 15-4-3 record.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports)

Rangers’ head coach David Quinn said, “He has played his way into this opportunity. You have a guy playing as well as he has in the American Hockey League, you call him up and give him an opportunity.” While Kris Knoblauch, Wolf Pack head coach said, “He is a really good professional. He comes to the rink, works hard, is focused every day, whether it’s practice or games.” Knoblauch continued, “Here is a rookie in his first year in the American League, and he has set the bar very high for others to follow just with his professionalism.”

Avs Jump on Shesterkin Early

With the Avalanche playing back-to-back games after a 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders, it seemed they might come out a little slower than their normal pace to start the game. However, being shutout must have lit a fire under them as J.T. Compher scored on the Avs’ first shot on goal after a fortuitous bounce. Then, two minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon came flying in with a breakaway, that made it seem like the whole Rangers team was outside the defensive zone, and deked Shesterkin for a nice snipe through the five-hole.

Shesterkin didn’t look comfortable especially with the Avs pressing so hard. However, he righted the ship with a point-blank save on a one-timer by Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog and the Rangers tied the score before the end of the first period. With the Rangers’ sloppy play in the first, they and Shesterkin had to pleased to come away with a 2-2 tie.

Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon New York Rangers Igor Shesterkin
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scores on New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports)

The rest of the game went back and forth with both teams trading goals while the Rangers tightened up their play, especially in the defensive zone. They did have another d-zone breakdown about halfway through the second, leaving Shesterkin out to dry again when Compher scored his second of the game. However, that was it. From there on, Shesterkin and the Rangers shut the door.

Shesterkin, Rangers Finish Strong

Between Artemi Panarin’s goal and two assists, and Shesterkin shutting the door, as the MSG crowd chanted Igor… Igor…, the Rangers were able to secure the win in the much-anticipated debut of the 24-year-old goalie from Moscow. Down the stretch, the Avs tried to take advantage of a rookie in nets with a full-court press, but Shesterkin was steadfast, especially when the Avs pulled their goalie. He made three big saves before Panarin potted the empty-netter for a 5-3 win.

Even after allowing two goals on the first three shots, Shesterkin didn’t budge and proved he can stand up to adversity in the big leagues. He finished with 29 saves including 13 in the third. Shesterkin, who joined the team on Mondaym helped end the Rangers’ three-game skid. He also has another feather in his cap, becoming the first Russian-born goalie to start for the Rangers in franchise history.

It’s not certain whether this will prompt a barrage of trade rumors for either of the Rangers’ goalies, however, it’s a nice step forward for both the team and Shesterkin. Following the game, head coach Dan Quinn said, “Everybody has been talking about Igor for a long time, and for good reason. [After the first two goals] He certainly settled in.”