New York, NY – The New York Rangers won their second game in a row last night with a rout of the New Jersey Devils. But it was a Pyrrhic victory as their top goaltender Igor Shesterkin needed to be carried off of the ice with an injury. Shesty had been playing very well of late but now joins a growing list of injured and absent players for the Rangers.
It had been a good game for the Blueshirts coming back after giving up an early goal to the Devils. A lively bounce off of the boards behind Shesterkin’s goal was misplayed by Shesty and defenseman Adam Fox and fell right on the stick of Jack Hughes who buried the goal before the Rangers knew what happened. The Devils pressed in the first period and the Rangers couldn’t get anything together offensively in the first 20 minutes. Some top-notch saves from Shesterkin kept the Rangers in the game.
The Rangers offense finally showed up in the second period and from that point it was all Rangers. Chris Kreider recorded a natural hat-trick with two goals in the second period and another to start the third. It was the first of four goals for the Rangers in the third period as they cruised past the Devils.
But midway through the third period, Shesterkin slid to his right to attempt a save and immediately collapsed in a heap. The Russian was carried off the ice and couldn’t put any weight on his right leg. After the game, David Quinn didn’t say much about the injury. Only that it was a lower body injury. Shesty joins Kaapo Kakko and Jacob Trouba on the injured list. With Artemi Panarin still on his personal leave, the Rangers are missing their Marquee forward, their marquee defenseman, their #2 overall pick from 2019, and their top goalie.
The good news for the Rangers is that several of their missing and injured players should be returning soon. Kakko has practiced with the team and could return this weekend. Panarin is listed as day-to-day and also could return soon. It’s good news for the Rangers whose offense has struggled. Aside from Chris Kreider, the Blueshirts have struggled to score consistently. Mika Zibanejad has struggled to score at all. His ice time has dwindled of late and last night he was benched for the first half of the second period. Zibanejad had 13 minutes of ice time last night. Almost two minutes less than Kevin Rooney.
It’s tough to tell what happened to Zibanejad. There could be some underlying injury we don’t know about. There could be some residual COVID effects he’s dealing with. But there has to be something. He scored 41 goals in 57 games last season. This year he has two goals in 21 games. Every time it looks like he is going to snap out of the funk, he doesn’t and we spend another week wondering “What’s wrong with Mika?”
Hopefully he gets it together soon. If Kreider’s hot streak ends, the Rangers could be in a lot of trouble offensively. And if Shesterkin misses significant time, the Rangers will need every goal they can get.
The Rangers are in Newark again tomorrow afternoon and then have four more road games against the Penguins and Bruins before returning home on March 15th to play the Flyers. It’s a critical stretch for the Rangers who are six points out of fourth place in the East. If they are going to make a playoff push, they will need to start stacking these wins.