Igor Shesterkin 'stepped up' when Rangers needed him most in comeback win over Islanders

Things weren’t looking good for the Rangers.

Riding a two-game losing streak and in the midst of a nearly three-game even-strength scoreless drought, they found themselves trailing late in the third period to the playoff-hungry crosstown rival Islanders.

Just when all hope looked lost, MVP-candidate Artemi Panarin stepped up as he’s done all season and he buried a wicked wrister off a face-off win past Ilya Sorokin, evening things up at two and ultimately forcing overtime.

After a back-and-forth five-minute 3-on-3 overtime session, the Blueshirts would go on to secure the victory behind goals from Panarin and Vincent Trocheck and big saves from Igor Shesterkin in a shootout.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Peter Laviolette said. “We knew it would be, they’re still fighting for a playoff spot. You never know how a game is going to play out, this one we started really well but found ourselves down. After that Shesty had to make some big saves, then we eventually tied it up and were able to get it to overtime.”

Shesterkin certainly made some big saves down the stretch for the Blueshirts.

While Panarin’s 48th goal of the season was what ultimately pushed the game to overtime, the All-Star netminder was the real reason that the Rangers were able to steal two big points and set a new franchise record for regular-season wins.

Shesterkin stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced during the contest, including a massive pad save on an Adam Pelech penalty shot midway through the third period, and a beautiful glove save on Mathew Barzal with under 10 seconds left in overtime.

He also stopped both Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson during a perfect shootout.

“He was unbelievable,” Braden Schneider said. “He’s been like that all year for us. It was a huge game for the organization and he came to play and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without him, he was amazing.”

Shesterkin got off to a bit of a slow start this season after missing time due to a lower-body injury early on, but he quickly rebounded after his All-Star Game appearance and regained his dominant form.

The one-time Vezina Trophy winner has kept New York atop the league by winning 13 of his 17 starts over the final two months of the season while posting a .934 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average.

“He’s a big game player,” Trocheck said. “Whenever we need him most he seems like he’s always stepping up and making the big saves to keep us in the game and he did a lot of that tonight.”

The Rangers now sit three points up on the Carolina Hurricanes in the overall league standings and the Metropolitan Division with just one game remaining.