Losing a No. 1 goaltender to injured reserve has the power to deflate any NHL team, but the Rangers continued to inflate their win total Saturday night.
Alexandar Georgiev was always scheduled to get the start in goal against the Blackhawks, but when Igor Shesterkin was placed on IR earlier in the day, the game suddenly carried a lot more weight. Picking up right where he left off after relieving Shesterkin the night before, Georgiev turned aside 25 of the 27 shots he faced as the Rangers extended their win streak to six games with a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden.
For Georgiev, who had seen his playing time increasingly dwindle since last season, finishing out Friday’s game against the Sharks without giving up a goal and then earning the win Saturday night likely did wonders for his confidence.
And with Shesterkin unable to come off injured reserve until Dec. 10, Georgiev said he knows he needs to put his rough outings behind him.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Georgiev said after the win, which improved the Rangers to 16-4-2 and an 8-1-1 at home. “I want to play a lot, I want to help the team win games. I’m focused on one day at a time. Happy we managed to do the job today, let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
After giving up a goal to Blackhawks star Patrick Kane at the end of the first period, Georgiev kept Chicago off the board until the final minute and a half of regulation, when referees reviewed a play and ruled Alex DeBrincat had pushed the puck over the goal line.
For a majority of the game, however, Georgiev preserved the Rangers’ lead. It was just Georgiev’s sixth start of the season, after he struggled mightily out of the gate, allowing 13 goals through his first three appearances.
“I don’t really want to talk about the last two weeks,” Georgiev said. “Not much playing time. Things haven’t gone the best, but at the same time, we’ve got the W’s. I’m happy that I get a chance to play, happy I get the chance to win games. So that’s the most important [thing] for us.”
Trailing by a goal at the start of the second period, the Rangers earned a four-minute power play when Blackhawks center Henrik Borgstrom was called for a double-minor high-sticking penalty at 3:43. That brought on the Rangers’ surging power play. Artemi Panarin sent a slick pass across the zone through traffic to Ryan Strome, who one-timed the puck home to knot the score 1-1.
The power-play goal counted as the Rangers’ fifth in their past six games. It was also Strome’s second man-advantage tally in as many days, and the second-line center now has at least one point in 10 of his past 11 games.
After another strong shift from Panarin, Strome and Dryden Hunt later in the middle frame, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead at 17:25 when Adam Fox put back a rebound off a shot from Panarin. And with just over five minutes left in regulation, a rebound popped out to Panarin who scored to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. It was his third point of the night.
The Rangers are rolling, and picking up more speed with each win. So far, Georgiev has allowed the Rangers to continue on their upward trajectory.
“It’s not easy, he’s in a tough spot,” Strome said of Georgiev. “He works hard, and it’s such a good feeling for him and he’s a big part of the team. I’ve seen him play over the last few years, he’s got the ability to be a great goaltender. We need him to step up right now and he’s going to take the challenge and be great. That’s what good teams do.”