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Senators stymied by Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin in loss

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators weren’t making excuses, but three games in four nights is bound to catch up to anyone. Ottawa managed to hold its own against the New York Rangers Sunday night, but still fell short in a 2-1 loss.
Ottawa Senators left wing Alex Formenton (10) tries to bring the puck around for a shot on New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) as centre Filip Chytil (72), defenceman K'Andre Miller (79), and defenceman Jacob Trouba (8) try to defend, during second period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators weren’t making excuses, but three games in four nights is bound to catch up to anyone.

Ottawa managed to hold its own against the New York Rangers Sunday night, but still fell short in a 2-1 loss.

“The power play is the difference tonight for them, Panarin is one of the best players in the league,” said Senators head coach D.J. Smith. He’s the difference at the end of the day.”

Artemi Panarin’s second-period power-play goal held up as the winner.

He’s a great player, he’s a star player for us,” said Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant. “He makes those great passes and tonight he shoots the puck and buries the winning goal on the power play. He’s a big part of our group and, obviously, when the power play is going like they’re going, and to win another hockey game for us tonight, that’s huge.”

Much of the credit deserves to go to Igor Shesterkin for his 29-save performance Sunday.

Ryan Strome also scored for the Rangers (32-13-5)

“I don’t know if he’s the best goalie in the league, but he’s close,” said Smith of Shesterkin. “You can see it on his play and whatever his record is.”

Shesterkin nearly scored an empty net goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation, but the puck went just wide.

“The sound (from the bench) was getting louder and louder as the puck got closer to the crease,” said Strome. “It’s just a matter of time; he’s going to stick with it. … It’s not just trying to score goals; the plays he makes and the breakout passes are just spectacular. He’s probably a better passer than 75-80 per cent of our team. I think guys would openly admit that, too.”

Filip Gustavsson made 31 saves as he made his first NHL start since Dec.7.

The 23-year-old has split his time this season in Ottawa and AHL Belleville and admitted that at times he’s struggled with the mental side of his game and recently felt like he needed a reset to get back to basics.

“I had two great games before I got the call up here and it feels like I’m back in my head and in the mental game,” admitted Gustavsson.

“As the game went on I became more confident, of course, like I was a little nervous at the start of the game with some puck touches and some rebounds, but the longer the game progressed, the more confident I felt.”

Smith had no complaints about his goaltender’s performance against an offensively talented team like the Rangers especially considering his team was playing the second half of a back-to-back.

Tim Stutzle was the lone Senator to beat Shesterkin on the night.

With Drake Batherson, Josh Norris and Thomas Chabot sidelined by injury, Stutzle admits he feels the need to take on some additional responsibility, but it’s a role he relishes.

"I think everyone has to step up a little bit here and there,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are doing a really good job playing against one of the best players every night.  I want to create most of the offense and D.J. has given me the confidence to put me out there in almost every o-zone draw, so I try to give it back to him when I can.”

Trailing 2-1 in the third, the Senators' best chance to tie the game came on the power play, but they were unable to beat Shesterkin.

The Rangers outshot the Senators 15-7 in the second and took a 2-1 lead on Panarin’s goal.

The Senators failed to generate much through the first 15 minutes of the second, but finally showed some life in the closing minutes of the period, but didn’t see anything for their effort.

A balanced first period saw the two teams exchange goals.

Stutzle opened the scoring at the four-minute mark as he took advantage of a Rangers turnover and wristed a shot past Shesterkin.

Just over three minutes later Braden Schneider fired a shot from the point. And while it didn’t get through, Strome was able to pick it up and beat Gustavsson for his tenth of the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2022.

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press