The New York Rangers really wanted to give Igor Shesterkin a taste of NHL action.
They put him right into the deep end of the pool by sending him out against the Colorado Avalanche — one of the NHL’s best teams — for his debut on Tuesday night. It went about as well as could have been expected in a 5-3 Rangers win.
Let’s take a quick look at three takeaways from the Rangers win.
1. It was a slow start for Shesterkin, but he bounced back
Early on it looked like maybe the Rangers were asking a bit too much from their rookie netminder. A couple of defensive breakdowns later and he had surrendered two goals on the first four shots he faced, including an incredible Nathan MacKinnon breakaway goal following a defensive giveaway by the Rangers. But once he shook off the early nerves he was outstanding the rest of the way and stopped 27 of the final 28 shots he faced.
The 24-year-old Shesterkin is in his first year of pro hockey in North America following a successful run in the KHL. He was a fourth-round pick by the Rangers in the 2014 draft (No. 118 overall).
After dominating for for Hartford in the AHL, the Rangers made the surprising decision to call him up and carry three goalies along with Henrik Lundqvist and Alexander Georgiev. Both goalies have played well this season behind a below average defensive team, making the decision to carry a third goalie even more surprising.
2. Things got rough late in the first period
This sequence late in the first period ended up taking two players out of the game.
Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi was injured on this devastating hit by Ryan Lindgren, forcing him out of the game. He did not return. In response to that hit, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri pounded Lindgren in a fight. Lindgren exited the game with an “upper-body” injury and did not return.
Kadri ended up getting 17 penalty minute — two for instigating, five for fighting, and a 10-minute misconduct.
3. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin were great for the Rangers
As they have been all season.
No matter what else is happening for the Rangers, Zibanejad and Panarin have been outstanding for the Rangers. They continued that on Tuesday night.
Zibanejad finished with a pair of points (giving him 33 in 29 games) while his goal, his 17th of the season, tied the game, 2-2, late in the first period. He was also a constant threat every time he was on the ice and was again one of the Rangers’ most dangerous forwards. On a per-game basis this is the best offensive season of his career.
Panarin, meanwhile, has simply been sensational and looks to be worth every penny the Rangers paid him in free agency. He finished Tuesday’s game with a goal (empty net) and two assists. With 23 goals and 58 total points in 42 games he is on pace for 45 goals and 114 total points. Both numbers what shatter his career highs. It may not get the Rangers to the playoffs this season, but if they can keep building around him he is the type of impact player every contending team needs.