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Last Weekend of 2023 Starts on Sour Note for Bolts

It’s the final weekend of 2023 and the Tampa Bay Lightning are celebrating with back-to-back home games. Tonight, they face off against the league leading New York Rangers. The game features a familiar goaltenders’ duel as Igor Shesterkin battles Andrei Vasilevskiy. Fans may remember this matchup from the 2022 Conference Final where chants of “Igor’s Better” and “Vasy’s Better” permeated each home team’s arena. Both teams come in tonight having lost their last game to the Florida Panthers. The Lightning lost at home to the Panthers on Thursday night, while the Rangers lost on the road in Sunrise last night. Which squad would rebound with a win tonight?

New Year’s Eve Weekend Starts with a Bang

It did not take long to start the scoring in this one. Artemi Panarin tucked home his 21st of the season just 1:51 into the opening frame.

And the Rangers were not done. Less than six minutes later, Vincent Trocheck scored to double the lead to 2-0.

The Lightning looked to get one back later in the period thanks to some hard work by Mikey Eyssimont. Igor Shesterkin left his crease and was not able to get in back in time to stop Eyssimont’s shot. The Rangers challenged for goaltender interference as Jeannot had made contact with Shesterkin after getting pushed. To the shock of most of the analysts, the challenge was successful and the goal came off the board.

Can’t Beat Shesterkin

Despite the score, the Lightning outplayed the Rangers in several categories that first period, including hits and shots on goal. They started off the second period similarly with several decent scoring chances. But each time, Igor Shesterkin was up to the challenge.

Finally, with time winding down in the period, the Bolts’ hard work earned them a power play. This time, they would not be denied. After passing the puck around, an open Nikita Kucherov blasted it past Shesterkin for his 25th of the season to cut the Ranger lead to 2-1.

Unfortunately, as seems to happen far too often when the Lightning look to be gaining momentum and getting back into a game, a defensive lapse cost them. Less than a minute after the Kucherov goal, Chris Kreider took a pass from Vincent Trocheck on a 2-1 and beat Vasileskiy on the blocker side to make it 3-1. Once again, the Rangers would take a two-goal lead into the dressing room.

One More Period To Go

The Lightning would have 20 more minutes to attempt to mount their comeback. But odds were not in their favor. The Kreider goal had cost them any momentum they were feeling. And Igor Shesterkin was stopping everything that game his way.

As happened for most of this game, the Lightning dominated play but just could not beat Shesterkin. Then, just over halfway through the period, the Rangers got a chance of their own. Unlike the Lightning, the Rangers were able to capitalize on their chance and took a 4-1 lead.

Later, the Rangers got a power play opportunity and capitalized to go up 5-1 as Artemi Panarin completed his hat trick.

Shesterkin continued to stop everything that came his way for the rest of the game. For tonight, the debate as to the better netminder had a clear and resounding winner. Tonight, Igor was definitely better.

Three Stars

1- Artemi Panarin- Hat trick

2- Vincent Trocheck- 1 goal (game winner), 3 assists

3- Igor Shesterkin- stopped 35 of 36 shots

Up Next

The Bolts go right back at it tomorrow night in a New Year’s Eve home game against the Montreal Canadiens. Puck drop scheduled for 7pm.


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