Well, this team found a way without winning their best. But who knows if that can be said in a few days.
In their last game before Monday, 3:00 p.m. close of trading, the Rangers managed to fight their way through a lot of sloppy play and won 3-2 over the Sharks at the Garden on Saturday night. Rookie goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin showed more highlights that came with a slight crack in the armor, and still managed to win an exceptional ninth game in his first 10 NHL career starts.
The Rangers (33-24-4) recently returned to the playoffs by winning six of their last seven and nine of their last twelve. Igor Shesterkin had taken the league by storm and started it the night after his backstop 5-2 win in Carolina on Friday night.
The overriding issue when the headstrong sharks (26-31-4) came in was still the trading deadline, and the blueshirts had to make an important decision by then. But all their main possible trades are dressed – including Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome.
The club strived to push these playoffs regardless of who was on the team. And they survived a difficult opening in the 40th minute – and arguably the first soft goal in Shesterkin's very young career – to go 2-2 in the third half.
Almost was then able to use his striking tenacity to score a second goal against goalkeeper Aaron Dell at 6:54 in the third half and give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
From there, the blueshirts had to fend off the attacking sharks – and did just that to significantly improve the feeling in the locker room during the most uncertain days of the season.
Since this is the team's third game in four nights and the seventh game in eleven nights, coach David Quinn didn't want his club to be abandoned after the emotional division win in Carolina. After this game, Quinn said, "I hope our boys are math majors and they understand where we are and how many games we have, regardless of our opponent."
And yet they were openly sloppy in the first phase and were beaten 22: 3. They were actually 1-0 in the lead when Artemi Panarin made a great game to prepare Jesper Fast for a goal at 9:35 a.m., but that was compensated for when Joe Thornton was just scoring his third goal of the season from the left circle sneaked under Shesterkin's arm at 17:55.
Of course, Shesterkin had previously made a handful of great parades, including a glove on an Evander Kane runaway about six minutes after the game started and a big parade right against Thornton about twelve minutes later.
The Rangers got slightly better in the second game, but Dell itself made some impressive saves. He contested Jesper Fast on a shorthanded breakaway and later stopped Ryan Strome on a nice give-and-go with Kreider. The Sharks went 2-1 on a power play point shot by Brent Burns, which was stopped by Shesterkin but rebounded into Thornton's leg at 1:47 p.m., but Panarin replied as he swept you off Kane's stick and sent him straight to Zibanejad up front for a slam dunk and a 2-2 draw in the third period.