Losing a No. 1 goaltender to injured reserve has the power to deflate any NHL team, but the Rangers simply continued to inflate their win total Saturday night.
Facing the shorthanded Blackhawks, who were without their top two defensemen, Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy, the Rangers extended their season-high winning streak to six games with a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are rolling, and picking up more speed with each win.
Alexandar Georgiev was always scheduled to get the start in goal Saturday, but when Igor Shesterkin was placed on IR earlier in the day, the game suddenly carried a lot more weight. After giving up a goal to Blackhawks star Patrick Kane at the end of the first period, Georgiev kept Chicago off the board until the final minute and a half of regulation, when referees reviewed a play and ruled Alex DeBrincat had pushed the puck over the goal line.
For a majority of the game, however, the Bulgaria-born Georgiev preserved the Rangers’ lead. He finished with 25 saves.
The Rangers were trailing by a goal at the start of the second period when Blackhawks center Henrik Borgstrom earned a four-minute double-minor penalty for high sticking at 3:43.
That brought on the Rangers’ surging power play. Artemi Panarin then sent a slick pass across the zone through traffic to Ryan Strome, who one-timed the puck home to knot the score 1-1.
The Rangers have power-play goals in five of their past six games. The goal was also Strome’s second man-advantage tally in as many days, and the forward now has at least one point in 10 of his last 11 games.
After another strong shift from Panarin, Strome and Dryden Hunt later in the period, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead at 17:25 when Adam Fox put back a rebound off a shot from Panarin. Fox assisted on Strome’s tally as well, and his 25 points in 23 games marks just the seventh time in franchise history a Rangers defenseman has posted such numbers.
The Rangers continued to spend lengthy shifts in the offensive zone through the third period. And with just over five minutes left in regulation, a rebound popped out to Panarin for the 3-1 score.
With 22.8 seconds left in the first period, Chicago’s Brandon Hagel and Seth Jones jumped out on a two-on-one rush. Julien Gauthier caught up to the play in time to disrupt the pass to Hagel, but the Blackhawks’ winger batted the puck out of midair and on net before Kane swooped in to clean up the rebound on a wide-open net for the 1-0 lead.
The Rangers challenged the play for high sticking, but the officials ruled that Hagel’s stick hit the puck at a level below his shoulders and the goal was upheld. As a result, the Rangers had to start the middle frame shorthanded.
Georgiev, making his sixth start of the seasons, came up with a couple of big stops on DeBrincat during the Rangers’ penalty kill.