Shesterkin failed to net his first but will surely settle for his 50th win, as the Rangers closed the weekend with a road triumph in Ottawa.
Igor Shesterkin has seemingly done it all for the New York Rangers this season, though no one is obviously expecting him to score goals.
That hasn’t stopped the goaltender from trying, however.
Shesterkin was inches away from scoring the first goaltender goal in Rangers history on Sunday evening in Ottawa. With the Rangers nursing a 2-1 lead over the hosting Senators, Shesterkin had an empty net to fire upon after Filip Gustavsson was pulled for an extra skater. His attempt, coming as the excess Senators dumped the puck into the Rangers’ zone to set up an attack in the penultimate minute of the game, appeared to be on target, but drifted to the left of the vacated net as it returned to Ottawa’s end of the rink, leading to an icing.
— S????s 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) February 21, 2022
Igor Shesterkin almost did it. pic.twitter.com/Vj5Uz81Qfb
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 21, 2022
Though Shesterkin missed out on becoming the first Rangers’ netminder to score a goal rather than stopping it, he still came up big to the tune of 29 saves in the eventual victory. History nonetheless awaited the 26-year-old Shesterkin, who earned the 50th win of his Rangers career, becoming the fastest Blueshirt to reach the landmark. Doing so in his 79th career NHL game is also tied with Philadelphia’s Bob Froese for the sixth-best pace in league history.
Ironically, no goalie in Rangers history came closer to scoring than Froese: in 1987, the second of four years in blue, Froese was originally credited with the second netminder’s goal in NHL history during a win over the New York Islanders. However, replays conducted days after the game determined that Froese had not touched the puck prior to the goal, which was earned during a delayed penalty.
Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall earned the historic goal mere days after the erasure of Froese’s, becoming the first NHL goalie to score through a shot on net. Islanders legend Billy Smith owns the first official goalie score in NHL history, as he was the last member of the scoring team to touch the puck before the Colorado Rockies put one into their own net in a November 1979 contest. Hextall, who duplicated the feat during the 1989 NHL playoffs is one of two goalies to earn multiple goals. Martin Brodeur put in three during his time in New Jersey, scoring in 1997, 2000, and 2013.
Humorous regret, however, nonetheless served as the theme in the aftermath of the Rangers’ road victory, once again supported by Shesterkin stops. The third-year goalie has made no secret about his desire to score a goal and could be seen laughing after his Sunday attempt sailed just wide. To date, 13 goals in NHL regular season and playoff history have been credited to netminders, the last put in by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in January 2020.
Even without a tally in the goal section of the box score, Shesterkin has earned strong praise for his puck handling during his second year as the Rangers’ full-time goaltender. Perhaps it was a feeling brought about by victory (as well as an Ottawa timeout taken after the ensuing icing), but head coach Gerard Gallant was perfectly fine with Shesterkin firing a puck the length of the ice and risking a tired line facing a replenished opponent.
“He had a lot of room. He handles the puck real well, as good as any goalie in the league from what I’ve seen,” Gallant said in video from SNY. “There was nobody in front of him, he had lots of room…we trust him, he’s won a lot of games for us. If they happened to knock one down and score on us…we’ll move on from that. (But) I enjoyed it, I wish it would’ve went in the net like everybody else.”
Ryan Strome, who scored the first of two Ranger goals on Sunday evening, remarked that the loudest cheers on Canadian Tire Centre’s visitors’ bench came when Shesterkin’s shot seemed destined for the back of the net. But Strome remarked that the goalie’s puck handling goes far beyond attempts to make humorous NHL history.
“The sound (from the bench) was getting louder and louder as the puck got closer to the crease,” Strome said in a report from Lisa Wallace of The Canadian Press. “It’s just a matter of time; he’s going to stick with it. It’s not just trying to score goals; the plays he makes and the breakout passes are just spectacular. He’s probably a better passer than 75-80 percent of our team. I think guys would openly admit that, too.”
— Ryan Hana (@RyanHanaWWP) February 18, 2022
With the win, clinched through Artemi Panarin’s power play goal in the second period, Shesterkin improved to 24-5-3 this season. His .939 save percentage continues to pace the NHL while his 2.05 goals against average trails only Ville Husso of St. Louis.
The Rangers (32-13-5) have earned points in each of their last five games after Sunday’s win, each of them overseen by Shesterkin. They’ll return to action on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags