DETROIT — Rangers coach Gerard Gallant pointed out before Wednesday night’s game that non-playoff teams are still fighting for pride, and the Red Wings certainly accomplished that.
But the Blueshirts overcame a particularly rough outing from goalie Alexandar Georgiev, forcing overtime behind Chris Kreider’s late game-tying power-play goal before trade-deadline acquisition and Michigan native Andrew Copp scored the game-winner 1:33 into overtime to take a 5 -4 wins at Little Caesars Arena.
Georgiev gave up four goals on 24 shots in the win, which improved the Bulgarian netminder to 11-9-2 on the season. In admitting that it wasn’t his best start, Georgiev said it helped that the game was tied 2-2 after the first period, which allowed him to approach the next shot as if it were 0-0.
“The guys were really good today, bailed me out,” Georgiev said. “Not the best game for me, but they kept scoring every time the other team kept getting the lead. They played great.”
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When asked if he considered pulling Georgiev, Gallant said no without hesitation. The concept of bringing Igor Shesterkin into a high-scoring game cold could be a recipe for disaster at this time of year, especially with the star goalie’s injury history. Plus, Shesterkin played in the first night of the back-to-back on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
The Red Wings pulled ahead, 4-3, roughly six minutes into the third period. Former Ranger Marc Staal’s shot was blocked before Adam Erne collected the loose puck and backhanded it through Georgiev’s legs.
Gallant began to shuffle his lines after that one, notably putting Artemi Panarin on the left wing of Mika Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano. But Detroit defenseman Gustav Lindstrom was called for high sticking to give the Rangers a timely power play.
Naturally, Kreider’s quick shot banked off a Detroit skate and in to force overtime. Tracking Kreider’s power-play goals has seemingly become an every-game occurrence, but that was No. 24 for those keeping track at home.
“[Panarin’s] got the talent and skill and then Kreider scores a power-play goal again,” Gallant said, referring to Panarin’s royal road pass to Copp for the OT winner. “Just the way it goes. I’m glad they’re on my side.”
A Detroit power play carried over into the second period with the game tied at two-all, and Tyler Bertuzzi’s one-timer put the Red Wings back in front. The Red Wings power play went 2-for-3 on the night, while the Rangers penalty kill continued to look off.
The Rangers suddenly stopped taking care of the puck and became passive in the defensive zone after an aggressive handful of shifts in the opening 20 minutes. But Vatrano kept the Blueshirts competitive, battling behind the Detroit net and feeding a streaking Panarin to tie the game 3-3 at 12:15 of the middle frame.
Georgiev allowed two goals on eight shots right off the bat. Luckily for the backup netminder, however, the rest of the Rangers made up for it with goals from Ryan Reaves and Filip Chytil.
“A lot of games [have gone] like that for us this season. … We can’t play like that if more important games [are] coming,” Panarin said. “It’s a big risk, not always you can do that. We’ll have to play better right away.”