Rangers Strike Lightning: Panarin's Hat Trick Ignites Shesterkin's Birthday Brilliance

Dive into the electrifying clash where the Rangers outshone the Lightning! Artemi Panarin's hat trick lit up the game, complementing Igor Shesterkin's birthday brilliance in a goaltending spectacle.

New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages

Dive into the electrifying clash where the Rangers outshone the Lightning 5-1! Artemi Panarin's hat trick lit up the game, complementing Igor Shesterkin's birthday brilliance in a goaltending spectacle.

The New York Rangers continue to spark up a storm. Losses to the Blueshirts must feel like getting struck by lightning for their opponents. Their dominant 5-1 bounce-back win on Saturday over the Tampa Bay Lightning in front of a Ranger-clad Amalie Arena crowd showed what these Blueshirts are genuinely about.

They’re now 9-1 in games following a loss and 6-0 in the second game of back-to-back clashes. The win also improved them to an NHL-best 25-9-1 record, making them the first team in the league to reach the 50-point mark. Once again, the Artemi Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Alexis Lafreniere line was at the forefront of the offense. Panarin recorded his second hat trick of the season, becoming the first Ranger since Mark Messier to record 100+ points in two straight calendar years.

He couldn’t have done it without his center, as Trochcek tied a career-high with a four-point game (1 goal, three assists), and his right winger Lafreniere added two assists. Between the pipes, on his 28th birthday, Igor Shesterkin backstopped the Blueshirts with 34 saves, defeating his Russian counterpart Andrei Vasilevsky.

A Lightning-Fast Start:

A component of the Ranger's resilience has been fast starts after a tough loss, which happened again on Saturday.
Trocheck won a loose-puck showdown in the neutral zone against Victor Hedman two minutes into the game. He took it into the offensive zone, and with a slick move, he dished it to Panarin. The "breadman" deposited it top-shelf for a quick 1-0 Rangers lead. A few minutes later, Trocheck won a battle behind the net and found Jacob Trouba at the point, who blasted a shot that was stopped, but Trocheck jammed home the rebound to make it 2-0 7:36 into the contest.

Tightening the Bolts:

After falling in a 4-3 “Pond Hockey” affair to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, the Rangers pulled a 180 on the other side of the state. Captain Jacob Trouba led the effort. He deflected passes and blocked shots left and right, finishing with five – and even took on missiles from Kucherov and Stamkos during a penalty kill. Plus, he wasn't shy about throwing his weight around with eight hits and ensuring Lightning players felt it. Although they invited pressure, the Blueshirts defended the middle of the ice, not allowing Tampa Bay’s East-west passes through, only allowing five high-danger chances.

Tampa had a moment when Braden Schneider was penalized for roughing in some post-whistle action. Kucherov unleashed a clapper, and despite Shesterkin making three dynamic saves, the last one found the back of the twine. Yet less than a minute later, Chris Kreider swoops in with a 2-on-1 feed from Trocheck, restored the two-goal lead.

The odd-man rush started after hard work in the defensive zone by K’Andre Miller and a high clear from Blake Wheeler. In the third, the Blueshirts weathered Tampa’s surge and turned it into offense. Panarin sidestepped around Hedman, sniped one past Vasilevskiy, and then sealed his hat trick with a power play goal off a sweet feed from Adam Fox.

As for Fox, he didn’t have his best game, as he was flat-footed at times and had a couple of turnovers, but he still wrapped things up with an assist and three blocks, personally giving my fantasy team eleven points in their week 12 win.

A Birthday-Worthy Performance:

As Peter Laviolette said about the Rangers netminder, “He played like it was his birthday.” Shesterkin made 34 saves with 2.17 goals saved above expected, masking some of the Blueshirts' defensive miscues while being fundamentally sharp.

Late in the first period, the Lightning nearly made it 2-1. Shesterkin made a save but went out of position, and Michael Eyssimont put in a wraparound as Tanner Jeannot made contact with Shesterkin in the blue crease.

Shesterkin was furious, and the Rangers challenged for goaltender interference. The call was overturned, and New York won a challenge, which is a rarity. Luck might play hard to get sometimes, but the Rangers are all about that hard work. That’s a mentality that will bode well when Spring arrives.