This was an unthinkable scenario when New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin finished the regular season with a .935 save percentage, making him the clear front-runner for the Vezina Trophy.
Shesterkin, who will be one of the three finalists announced this week, carried that momentum into the playoffs while stopping 118 of the 124 shots he faced in the first two games for a .952 percentage. But since arriving in Pittsburgh, the 26-year-old has taken a nose dive. In Games 3 and 4 combined, he allowed 10 goals on 48 shots for an unsightly save percentage of .792 as the Rangers fell behind in the series 3-1.
Penguins fans were unsympathetic, raining down chants of “We want Igor!” after he was yanked to begin the third period.
“He’s probably really frustrated,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after Tuesday’s 7-2 loss.
But while Shesterkin was the primary target of the heckling, he was far from the only culprit. The second period featured one breakdown after another, resulting in goals from Mike Matheson, Jake Guentzel, Mark Friedman, Danton Heinen and Jeff Carter.
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“He’s just one of us,” Rangers forward Andrew Copp said. “We weren’t playing very good in front of him. It definitely wasn’t on him at all. It’s going to be up to every guy in the room to pull together.”
The Penguins’ goals came in all different varieties — long-range wrist shots, far-post tap-ins, five-hole head-scratchers — with the Rangers surrendering 16 shots on goal and 12 high-danger scoring chances in second period alone, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“There wasn’t much commitment to playing defense tonight,” Gallant said.
Backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced in the third, but the coach stopped any goalie controversy in its tracks by committing to Shesterkin for Game 5.
“He’ll be back in there and he’ll be ready to win the next game on Wednesday night,” Gallant said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world. … I’m disappointed more in our team than him.”
Capitals, Panthers coaches unhappy with calls
The Capitals went ahead 2-1 Tuesday night when TJ Oshie leveled Sam Bennett, leading to an Evgeny Kuznetsov breakaway goal.
Panthers coach Andrew Brunette was irate on the bench.
“It’s obviously something (the league is) probably going to take a look at,” he said. “I didn’t like the hit. I thought it was targeted to the head.”
The Panthers forced overtime after the Capitals hit the post on an empty net and won 3-2 on a Carter Verhaeghe goal with Jonathan Huberdeau in the crease to tie the series 2-2. The goal was confirmed after a review for goalie interference.
“They said that Lars (Eller) helped (Huberdeau) in there,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think Lars was trying to get him out of there. The goaltender’s got to be able to make a save.”
Brunette was confident the goal would count.
“It’d be really hard, in my opinion, to call that one back, so I wasn’t overly concerned,” he said. “But they have to do their due diligence.”
Draft lottery primer
The draft host Montreal Canadiens have the best chance to win Tuesday night’s lottery and the right to pick first overall. The lottery (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will determine the first two picks in the July draft. All 16 non-playoff teams will take part, but the maximum places a team can move up is 10, meaning the 11th-place San Jose Sharks are the last team that could possibly draft No. 1 overall.
Shane Wright is the top-ranked North American skater and Juraj Slafkovsky, who starred for Slovakia at the Olympics, is the top European skater.
Here are the odds: 1. Montreal Canadiens, 18.5%. 2. Arizona Coyotes, 13.5%. 3. Seattle Kraken, 11.5%. 4. Philadelphia Flyers, 9.5%. 5. New Jersey Devils, 8.5%. 6. Chicago Blackhawks*, 7.5%. 7. Ottawa Senators, 6.5%. 8. Detroit Red Wings, 6.0%. 9. Buffalo Sabres, 5.0%. 10. Anaheim Ducks, 3.5%. 11. San Jose Sharks, 3.0%. 12. Columbus Blue Jackets, 2.5%. 13. New York Islanders, 2.0%. 14. Winnipeg Jets, 1.5%. 15. Vancouver Canucks, 0.5%. 16. Vegas Golden Knights**, 0.5%
*-The pick will go to the Blue Jackets if it’s not a top 2 pick. **-The pick will go to the Sabres if it’s not a top 10 pick.
Contributing: Mike Brehm, USA TODAY Sports