There must be something about Toronto that brings out the very best in New York Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
The New York Rangers produced one of their better games of the season to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime on Saturday thanks to a Ryan Strome goal and some big stops from their rising backup. Despite the victory the Rangers were officially eliminated from the playoffs for the second straight season when Montreal defeated the Sabres.
After producing a masterful 55 save performance against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 10, the 23-year-old was at it again as at the Scotiabank Arena last night, this time stopping 44 out of the 45 shots leathered at him.
Handed his 24th start of the season between the pipes, Georgiev was in the zone from the drop of the puck as he kept Toronto at bay early.
He showed admirable levels of focus early on to knock the puck away from his net after it had taken a nasty bounce, and he also stood strong to help his team come through three penalty kills unscathed.
The Rangers had only given up four power play goals in their last ten games prior to Saturday (78.5 percent on the penalty kill during that stretch) and they showed an abundance of resilience to frustrate the Leafs on the man advantage, ranked seventh on the power play in the NHL with 22.4 percent heading into the game.
Georgiev even managed to keep the puck out of his net using Neal Pionk‘s stick as the Rangers survived an onslaught whilst on the penalty kill late in the first period.
There was a different feel to this New York team who entered the night as the youngest team in the NHL at around 25 years and they showed they were able to mix it with one of the elite teams in the NHL despite not being at full strength.
There was also more ice time and responsibility for John Gilmour, Filip Chytil, Vinni Lettieri and Lias Andersson, with the latter producing arguably one of his more accomplished displays in a Rangers jersey.
He was particularly impressive in the first period, active throughout and putting a shift in both the offensive and defensive zone, working well on a line with Jimmy Vesey and Ryan Strome.
Lemieux also made sure that he made the most of the added responsibility he was given both on the top line and on the first power play unit.
Meshing well with Buchnevich and Zibanejad, Lemieux used his hustle and bustle to carve out opportunities and looks for his line-mates.
Lettieri and Chytil both pinged a shot off the post in the second period as Head Coach David Quinn got a bucket load of effort from his players on a night that provided plenty of encouraging signs for the Rangers.
Tavares and Auston Matthews were even thrown together on the ice in the latter stages of the second period in a bid to break the deadlock, but Georgiev’s 24 stops and the resolute efforts of his team-mates in-front of the net set an entertaining and high-tempo game up for a thrilling finish in the third period.
And Georgiev’s heroics allowed the Rangers to get off to a superb start in the final period as Buchnevich got to the inside and fired home the loose puck just 18 seconds in with Brady Skjei (16) and Kevin Shattenkirk (25) providing the helpers.
It was Buchnevich’s 18th goal of the season, his 31st point of the year and his sixth goal in his last 10 games with the power forward finally starting to add some consistency to his overall game.
Toronto with all their firepower – they were averaging 3.55 goals per game prior to Saturday – were continuing to pepper the Rangers goal with a barrage of attacks but once again Matthews and company could not find a way past the brick wall that was Georgiev.
However, the star power of the Maple Leafs did eventually shine through as Georgiev stopped Rielly once more, but Tavares dished the rebound to Zach Hyman perfectly who was able to bury home the rebound to tie it up.
Georgiev continued to come up clutch for his team, somehow getting his glove on a Nazem Kadri shot in the third, which turned out to be one of his better saves on the night.
And the young backup was certainly the star of the show on a night where many Rangers upped their games and gave their coach plenty of food for thought for the remaining eight games of the season and beyond.