Russians star in NHL history
The duo earned particular praise as the New York Rangers sealed a remarkable comeback in the Stanley Cup playoffs
Russia’s Artemi Panarin scored an overtime goal to hand the New York Rangers a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night to progress to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Panarin struck on a power-play 4:46 into overtime as the Rangers won 4-3 at a raucous Madison Square Garden.
The result meant the Rangers fought back from 3-1 down in series to set up a second-round meeting with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Thanks to the strike from Panarin, the Rangers became the first team in NHL playoff history to register three consecutive comeback wins in elimination games within the same series.
“He’s the guy,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant of the man nicknamed 'Bread'.
“When it was heading into overtime, I said to myself, ‘I know he’s going to score if we score. If we get the winning goal, it's going to be him.’”
The Rangers advance to a first appearance in the second round of the playoffs since 2017, when they were beaten by Ottawa.
There was also praise on Sunday night for Russian goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who made 42 saves to bolster his claims for the Hart Trophy handed out to the NHL’s MVP.
The 26-year-old was officially named last week as among the finalists for the accolade.
“We expect him to be sharp, be strong. That’s why he’s a candidate for the MVP and for the Vezina Trophy [for best goalie]… He deserves it,” Gallant said of the Russian.
In total, Shesterkin recorded 255 saves over the seven games against the Penguins – the most in a single series by a Rangers goaltender since at least 1955-56, when the NHL records began tracking the statistic.
The Pens had welcomed backed Canadian superstar Sidney Crosby after he missed Game 6 through injury, and also had Russia’s Evgeni Malkin in their ranks – who became his country’s highest-ever points scorer in NHL playoffs history earlier in the series.
But it wasn’t enough as Crosby suggested that his team had been unfortunate to lose the series.
“Tonight, we were on the wrong end of some bounces,” said the Canadian.
“We played a great game tonight, we played some good hockey throughout the series. We didn't get that next one tonight that was probably the difference but I think even when we had those leads we still played the right way.”
The Rangers will meet the Hurricanes after Carolina sealed their own 4-3 series victory against the Boston Bruins on Sunday night.
Even if a Russian player is among the team to win the Stanley Cup this year, it is unlikely that the trophy will be allowed to be paraded in Russia, as has became tradition.
Citing a source, Match TV says the chances of that happening are “zero” due to the conflict in Ukraine and the subsequent decision by the NHL to suspend its ties with Russia, including terminating a broadcast agreement and pausing its Russian-language social and digital media sites.