Rangers rally after poor start from Igor Shesterkin, but Penguins respond late to win Game 3

PITTSBURGH — Igor Shesterkin will almost certainly win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. He was a rock for the Rangers throughout the regular season and the first two games of the playoffs.

But Shesterkin struggled Saturday night in his first road playoff game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was fired by coach Gerard Gallant after allowing four goals on 15 shots, and although the decision appeared to spark a rally in which Rangers scored three times to equalize, they ultimately couldn’t follow that momentum. towards victory.

Danton Heinen’s goal at 11:02 of the third period proved to be the game-winning goal in a 7-4 Penguins victory at PPG Paints Arena in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series. The win gave the Penguins a 2-1 best-of-seven series lead, with Game 4 on Monday night.

Gallant said he pulled Shesterkin to change the momentum, but also because he thought the goaltender would need a break after seeing 124 shots in the first two games of the series, including his performance as a 79 saves in the three-overtime loss in Game 1.

“It’s 4-1, sometimes you have to change the momentum a bit,” said Gallant. “And Igor was exceptional. And really, you’re looking at him right now and he’s played 10 periods in the last, basically, 4 ½ days, five days, whatever. So I thought it was a good time to, you know, relaunch it. And luckily for us, we fought back in the second and equalized. And unfortunately in the third they got a goal.

“But I like how our team didn’t give up,” he said. “I was proud of them for that. And we’ll be ready for the next game.”

The Penguins opened the scoring early on a funky play. Brock McGinn’s shot from behind the goal line beat Rangers defender Patrik Nemeth, although the net was dislodged when Nemeth slammed into it. The game was originally goalless, but after reviewing the video, the goal counted as it was Nemeth who dislodged the net. That gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 1:57 of the first period.

Kaapo Kakko’s goal at 5:08 tied the game at 1, but power play goals from Jeff Carter and Evan Rodrigues – who each scored twice in the game – gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead.

By then, Penguins fans were having a good time with Shesterkin, chanting “Igor sucks” after Carter’s goal. Rodrigues’ goal in particular looked a bit unsettling, as it was a long shot through traffic. He seemed to have a lot with his catching glove, but the puck somehow seeped through.

After that, Shesterkin looked shaken, failing to catch pucks cleanly and generally flailing on shots and giving unusual rebounds. Rod-rigues’ second goal, after a bad turnover in the defensive zone by Braden Schneider, made it 4-1 at 15:15. At the time, it looked like the period couldn’t end quickly enough for Shesterkin and Rangers.

What went wrong? “I don’t think we got to our game fast enough,” said Chris Kreider, who paused 12 seconds before answering the question. “I don’t think we play together. Especially at this point in the season, effort isn’t something you question; it’s a matter of working smart, not just hard.”

Alexandar Georgiev replaced Shesterkin to start the second period, and whether that move turned the tables or not, Rangers seemed to take control of the game.

When Frank Vatrano scored at 6:51 to make it 4-2, Rangers edged Pittsburgh 7-0 in the period. When Artemi Panarin scored at 7:58 to make it 4-3, the shots were 10-0.

Then, when Schneider was sent off for a hook at 15:15, it was Rangers who capitalized, Andrew Copp scoring a shorthanded goal at 15:59 to level the score at 4.

The Rangers had a few power plays in the third period as they tried to take the lead, but Penguins goaltender Louis Domingue (32 saves) thwarted them.

“You have to give Louis Domingue credit,” Gallant said. “When it was 4-4 he made a couple of great saves on our power play, so that was a big part of the game.”

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