Rangers Recap: No Panarin, no problem as Zibanejad tricks Lightning

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Jan 2, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) reacts to scoring a goal during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers came into 2022 without their best player as Artemi Panarin was ruled out on COVID protocol just prior to the game. They were looking for a home-and-home sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had Andrei Vasilevskiy back in goal.

It was a challenge against a top team that was basically at full strength. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts went ahead also missing Ryan Lindgren and Kevin Rooney also on COVID protocol. Yet, they still had Mika Zibanenjad and Igor Shesterkin to lead the way.

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Recap: Rangers 4 vs Lightning 0

The Blueshirts came out with a legit sense of urgency in this contest, which was a stark contrast to Friday night where they only managed three weak shots in the first period.

Mika Zibanejad would get the Rangers on the board first with a blast past Vasilevskiy 7:44 into the opening frame. The 7th ranked power play in the league moved the puck around beautifully as Adam Fox and Chris Kreider were credited with the assists.

New York was not complacent as they continued to press the Lightning. On a 4 on 4, Steven Stamkos high sticked Zibanejad which put the Rangers back on the man advantage. It didn’t take more than 8 seconds for Zibanejad to make them pay as an intended pass to Kaapo Kakko deflected off Tampa defender Ryan McDonagh for his second goal of the period. Fox and Kreider assisted again.

“[Panarin] is a big key for us on the power play,” Zibanejad said. “But we’ve been all over the place when he’s in, so we’re interchangeable.”

Just 2:16 later, Ryan Strome would roof a Barclay Goodrow feed from the high-slot over Vasilevskiy and Rangers Garden Party was in full effect.

Not to be outshined, Igor Shesterkin kept Tampa off the board late in the period making three great saves while they were on the man advantage. He made six saves on that power play as the Lightning ended up with an 18-10 shot advantage after one.

“We have to just keep going,” Zibanejad said after the period. “That’s a good team. I know we have a 3-0 lead but we have to keep playing the way we have.”

Zibanejad gets tricky

mika zibanejad hat trick
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The second period was a more tempered affair with the Lightning tightening things up defensively. However, the Rangers started to find another gear with five minutes left. As the Blueshirts came in waves, Vasilevskiy was forced into making several great saves.

Zibanejad would net the hat-trick with 3:02 remaining. After knocking down the puck, he and Kreider worked some magic down low with Mika finishing the play.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper challenged the goal saying Zibanejad touched the puck with a high-stick. The ruling on the ice stood and Tampa now had to deal with a penalty that they were able to kill.

For Zibanejad, it was his eight career hat-trick and seventh with the Rangers. That ties the great Rod Gilbert for second most by a Blueshirt in franchise history. Kreider’s assist was his third of the game.

“When you are in that kind of momentum you seem to make the right decisions– the puck finds you and that’s what I did today,” Zibanejad said.

The Igor Shesterkin Show

igor shesterkin
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

In the final frame, the Rangers seemed to have one last mission to complete and that was to get Shesterkin the shutout.

New York played a hard with a defense first approach. You could see the commitment to keep Tampa shots to the low danger areas but more importantly they made the safe decisions with the puck.

It was good to see the kids step up,” Gallant said about the defense pairing of rookies Zac Jones and Nils Lundkvist. “You try and get the matchups you want but they were out there against (Tampa’s) top line sometimes and did real well.”

Shesterkin who really put on a show at the end of the first period stood tall stopping the final nine shots he faced. When it was all said and done, he recorded 38 saves for his 15th win of the season and the 4th shutout of his young career.

Shesty had an unreal game,” K’Andre Miller said afterwards. “Huge shutout for him.”

Notable Rangers

  • Igor Shesterkin stopped all 38 shots and is 9-0-0 win facing at least that many in his career
  • Mika Zibanejad hat-trick gives him 11 goals on the season
  • Chris Kreider recorded his second three assist game of the season
  • Zac Jones was excellent in his season debut playing 13:32 with a +1 rating
  • Nils Lundkvist who partnered with Jones played 14:21 with a +1 rating

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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