Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin provided another standout performance with 37 saves and two assists, on goals by Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil, as the Rangers extended their season at least one more game. Shesterkin became the fifth goaltender to record multiple assists in a playoff game and the first Ranger with three in one postseason (John Vanbiesbrouck had two in 1986 and three overall).
“It’s always great to have a goalie whose next step is to start scoring goals,” Artemi Panarin, a Rangers forward from Russia, said through an interpreter.
But Shesterkin’s real contribution is stopping pucks, which he did by walling off Sebastian Aho on an early breakaway, one of the critical moments of Game 6. Shesterkin has been bedrock for the Rangers, and a primary reason the team feels confident it can finally end Carolina’s home domination, in their very last chance to do so.
“We have to play how we play at home,” Chytil said. “I don’t know what the difference for us is to play on the road. In the first series, we found a way to win in Pittsburgh. I know they have the fans and the building they are used to. But we have to play hard and play our game and don’t focus on any other thing, just focus on the game and we can win the game.”
But there is another side to that equation that would also seem to favor the Rangers. While Shesterkin has been utterly dependable dating back to the final three games against the Penguins, his Carolina counterpart, Antti Raanta, just hit a potential psychological snag.
After Raanta allowed three goals less than 24 minutes into the game, including one or two that he could have saved, Brind’Amour sat him down in favor of Pyotr Kochetkov, the backup to the backup.
Raanta has played beyond expectations since stepping in for Frederik Andersen, the Hurricanes’ lead goalie, who has been sidelined since April with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Raanta, a former Ranger, has spent most of his N.H.L. career as a backup, but he has played well in the playoffs, posting a 2.20 goals-against average, including Saturday’s loss.