Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin beginning to find his groove again

BUFFALO — Gerard Gallant said it best after the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime win over the Sabres on Saturday night at KeyBank Center, where goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced.

“Late in the [third] period like that of a 1-1 hockey game, to give those chances it’s not acceptable for our group,” the head coach said. “A lot of guys in there should be thankful Igor made those saves for them.”

Shesterkin stole two points for the Rangers.

That’s a sentence that hasn’t been written nearly as much this season as it was in 2021-22, or the season before.

In the past two games, however, Shesterkin has been the difference for a Rangers team that is still looking out of sync since it added two star forwards before the trade deadline.

In reality, the Rangers haven’t been on their game since the All-Star break. Yet they’re still sitting comfortably in third place in the Metropolitan Division thanks to their ability to pull out wins even when they might not deserve them.

Igor Shesterkin, who had 32 saves, defends the net during the Rangers' 2-1 OT win over the Capitals.
Igor Shesterkin, who had 32 saves, defends the net during the Rangers’ 2-1 OT win over the Capitals.

Last season, Shesterkin was the reason for that more often than not. This season, not so much.

The past few games have indicated that Shesterkin could be finding his groove once again.

That will be imperative for the Rangers down the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Aside from misplaying the puck in the second period, Shesterkin consistently made clutch saves at key points in the game.

There were a pair of stops toward the end of the middle frame, including a robbery on Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with his right pad.

Plus, the 27-year-old netminder recorded the save of the game with seconds to go in regulation on a point blank shot from Dylan Cozens.

“It’s huge,” Jimmy Vesey said of Shesterkin’s play. “Couple times, you’re holding your breath on the bench, but he stood tall tonight. He’s a Vezina winner, so he can get to that level. It’s a good sign for our team.”

Shesterkin was not made available to the media after the game.

The Rangers got one of their two injured players back Saturday night.

Tyler Motte returned to the lineup after he missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury he sustained in the Rangers’ 5-3 loss to the Senators on March 2.

In addition to slotting back onto the fourth line alongside Barclay Goodrow and Vesey, Motte was back in the Rangers’ penalty-killing rotation.

Despite being a full participant in practice Friday, Ryan Lindgren was still sidelined with an upper-body injury.

It was the sixth straight game the 25-year-old defenseman has missed following a hit from the Capitals’ T.J. Oshie at the end of last month.

It is also the longest injury stint of Lindgren’s five-year NHL career.

Without Lindgren, Adam Fox continued to skate with Niko Mikkola, while the rest of the defensive pairs remained the same.

The Rangers assigned Jonny Brodzinski back to AHL Hartford.