Shesterkin, Rangers shut out Penguins, strengthen hold on second in Metro

Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves for the New York Rangers in a 3-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden in New York on Thursday.

The shutout was Shesterkin’s fourth of the season and sixth in 89 NHL starts. He allowed six goals on 44 shots in his previous two starts, a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders on April 1 and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on April 3.

“I thought he was excellent,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “People were worried about him. I wasn’t. He played really well tonight, made some real key saves at key times.”

Artemi Panarin scored in his 500th NHL game, and Frank Vatran scored his sixth goal in 12 games for the Rangers (46-20-6), who are 6-1-1 in their past eight games. They are second in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and six ahead of the third-place Penguins.

Pittsburgh (41-21-10) is 2-5-1 in its past eight, including losses to New York on March 25 (5-1) and March 29 (3-2). Center sidney crosby did not play because of a non-COVID-19 illness, and tristan jarry made 21 saves.

“We’re competing hard,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re in every game. When you look at the last handful of games, I feel like the team’s played pretty hard. We haven’t got the result, but we just have to continue to stay with it. That’s the message that we gave the guys after the game.

“We’ve got to learn through each experience. We can’t dwell on it.”

Video: PIT@NYR: Shesterkin blanks Penguins in 3-0 win

Vatrano gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 24 seconds into the second period. Mika Zibanejad chipped a loose puck off Chris Creeder near the crease for Vatrano to backhand past a sprawling Jarry.

Four of Vatrano’s 16 goals this season have come in six games against Pittsburgh. He was acquired in a trade from the Florida Panthers on March 16.

“At the end of the day, you have to be ready for whatever competition you’re playing,” Vatrano said. “No matter who we play we will be ready for whatever comes across. … When the playoffs happen you kind of put the regular season behind you. The playoffs are long. It’s a couple of months, so you’ve got to take it one game at a time.

“You don’t worry about what happened in the regular season. The playoffs are a whole different animal.”

Panarin made it 2-0 at 9:47 with a backhand through traffic from the slot. He has 558 points (185 goals, 373 assists) in 500 games with the Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Video: PIT@NYR: Panarin puts home wicked backhander

Jake Guentzel had a chance to cut into the lead on a power play with 3:59 left, collecting a pass from Kris Letang in the crease for a wrist shot, but Shesterkin stretched for a right pad save.

“It was a very important game,” Shesterkin said. “I think the boys put up a good game. There were a lot of blocked shots, great goals. They really put out.”

Dryden Hunt scored an empty-net goal from the Rangers’ zone for the 3-0 final with 38 seconds remaining in the third period.

The Penguins had a 13-6 shot advantage in the third after being limited to 17 shots in the first two periods.

“I’m not concerned,” Letang said. “I think tonight was a tight game. We battled hard. We gave ourselves a chance to come back.”

New York finished the season series 3-1-0, outscoring Pittsburgh 11-4.

“It’s motivation for us to get back in the win column,” Jarry said. “I think we’ve been doing the right things. I just don’t think we’ve been getting the bounces and some of the points in the last couple games.”

NOTES: rangers forward Tyler Motte left with 7:23 remaining in the third after taking a hit from Penguins forward Anthony Angello. There was no update after the game. … Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid (680) and Leon Draisaitl (598), Blackhawks forward patrick kane (611) and Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand (558) are the only active players to have scored more points than Panarin since he entered the NHL in 2015-16. …Pittsburgh defenseman John Marino and forward Radim Zohorna did not play with non-COVID illnesses. … Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow had five hits in 14:51 of ice time during his 400th NHL game. …Pittsburgh forward Philip Hallander played 5:52 in his NHL debut. He was recalled on an emergency basis from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday.

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