PITTSBURGH – Igor Shesterkin played with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the regular season. The New York Rangers goalkeeper even waved to Sidney Crosby and company off the ice after winning the break in early April.
Let’s move a month forward and Shesterkin’s ostentation suddenly disappears. So, seemingly, is the confidence of the Vezina Trophy favorites. Withdraw twice in three days while the opposing audience chants your name while the puck pushes behind you into the net, it will do so.
And now the only thing the Shesterkin and Rangers are threatening to shake off is their once-promising season.
Crosby had a goal and three assists to become just the sixth player in NHL history to reach 200 playoff points, and the Penguins once again chased Shesterkin off the ice of the PPG Paints Arena in a dominant 7-2 victory Monday night and got a 3- 1 lead in their series of the first round of the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins, limited to just four goals in four Shesterkin games in the regular season, could close the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
“I think we know we have a lot of work to do,” he said. said Crosby. “When you’re in a game like this, you know you’ll see the best second team next time.”
Perhaps, though New York shouldn’t have improved much compared to the effort in which they allowed the Penguins to score five goals during the second period.
“I don’t think you’ll find a guy who’s happy with that performance,” Rangers defender Jacob Trouba said. “There is not much to say. We know we have to be better with men. ”
Especially the man on the net. Shesterkin went blind during Games 1 and 2 in New York, scoring 118 combined defenses and each looking like the dominant force that has stifled the Penguins for most of the year.
Not so much anymore. He lasted only one period in the 3rd game after scoring four goals. He passed only two periods in the fourth game, and spent the third on the bench after scoring six goals with 30 shots.
New York coach Gerard Gallant has promised that the 26-year-old Shesterkin will start with the Rangers one defeat since the elimination.
“He is the best goalkeeper in the league” said Gallant.
Maybe, but Shesterkin isn’t playing that way right now, though he’s hardly the only culprit after the Rangers allowed an incredible 14 goals at the noisy PPG Paints Arena.
Five came during the second period on Monday night in which the Penguins turned the game – and perhaps the series – in their favor. Jake Guentzel, Jeff Carter, Danton Heinen, Mark Friedman and Mike Matheson all found a way to get Shesterkin to turn around and pull the puck out of the net as the red light on the goal rattled and fans mockingly chanted “IIIIGOORRRR.”
Goals came in a variety of ways. Tips. Redirects. Happy jump. Open shots from the slot. After repeatedly urging his players to stop trying to score a climax and simply throw a puck into the net, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s team seems to be listening.
Pittsburgh has fired 266 shots at the Rangers in a row so far. And while that number is a bit distorted by the thriller with three overtimes in Game 1, it indicates a change in mindset.
“We’ve been preaching to our team all year that we need to evolve and attack in different ways,” he said. said Sullivan. “We cannot be stubborn. We have to take what the game gives us. ”
Carter attributed this to better performance and even better effort. This postseason could be the final grandstand of Pittsburgh, Crosby, Malkin and defender Chris Letang. The trio together perform 16th in a row in the playoffs. It could also be their last with Malkin and Letang who will be free agents this summer.
Maybe that possibility prompted the Penguins. Or maybe the famous adrenaline rush that comes with the Stanley Cup helped a list full of 30-year-olds find the source of their youth. Pittsburgh is on the verge of winning the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
“We have a veteran group there and these guys have been through this a lot,” said Sullivan. “So I think everyone understands the position we are in and we have to go out and earn the next one. That must be our way of thinking. “
As Shesterkin struggles, Pittsburgh third-tier Louis Domingue is approaching local cult hero status as he replaces injured All-Star Tristan Jarry. Domingue made 22 saves and won their third game in a row. Not bad for the 30-year-old Call, who made his playoff debut after spending most of his last three seasons in the juniors.
While Domingue – with speakers that play the chorus of rock classics “Louie Louie” after particularly long stops – he seems to have settled into the rhythm of the off-season, Shesterkin seems upset.
Two goals in the space of 22 seconds at the beginning of the second period brought the Penguins to a 3-1 lead. Two more 39 seconds before the end of the third effectively ended Shesterkin’s night and pushed New York to the edge.
NOTES GAMES: Sullivan’s win was his 44th in the playoffs, breaking the tie with former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma for most post-season wins in franchise history. … Crosby’s 201 playoff point is tied with Jaromir Jagr for fifth in all time. Wayne Gretzky tops the list with 395.