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Recap: Rangers Roll in Vegas

Another Shutout for Georgiev as Blueshirts Rout Knights & Start Road Trip Right

by Michael Obernauer

LAS VEGAS -- David Quinn was wondering aloud, after everything was said and done, if maybe the whole production that is a hockey game on the Vegas Strip was an atmosphere that had his team a little unbalanced early on. But Alexandar Georgiev knew exactly what to make of his surroundings.

"Feels like a nightclub in here, playing a hockey game," the Ranger goaltender said. "Maybe it gets you going a little more. I try to enjoy this atmosphere; it is pretty much a one-of-a-kind building."

It was difficult to judge by Sunday night's game alone what the atmosphere inside T-Mobile Arena is like at peak frenzy, because thanks to Georgiev and the Rangers there was nothing to cheer about. The goaltender was magnificent yet again, at his best in the first period to give his teammates a chance to get their feet under them in the opener of a four-game road-trip - and once they did, they romped to a 5-0 win on the Strip and their first-ever victory in Las Vegas.

Five different Rangers scored goals in support of Georgiev, who made 17 saves in the opening period and 38 in the game to capture his second shutout in his last four starts, and win for the fourth time in his last five. It continues what has become an incredible run by Georgiev in which he has stopped 169 of the last 174 shots he has seen (.971), and one during which Quinn said he was "bringing his game to another level."

Asked, because it's Vegas, where he pegged the odds over the first 10 or 12 minutes that Georgiev would be able to hold down the Golden Knights for the full 60, Quinn said: "Those odds would not have been very good, I'll tell you that.

"But I thought tonight as the game went on, we got better and better and better and better," the Head Coach added. "And that's a great sign for us."

Georgiev's second shutout in nine days was the fourth of his career, and his 38 saves equaled his second-highest total this season. He also finished with 38 back on Nov. 23, when the Rangers erased a four-goal deficit to win in Montreal in a game that now seems to have been a pivotal moment for the Rangers' 23-year-old goaltender.

The pivotal point of Sunday's game came when, with Georgiev holding it down at one end, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider scored at the other 14 seconds apart just past the midpoint of the first. They came on the Rangers' third and fourth shots of the game; Panarin finished with a goal and an assist, as did Jacob Trouba, while Jesper Fast and Mika Zibanejad also scored as the Rangers got goals from three different forward lines as well as both power-play units.

They also got points from all six of their defensemen, seven points in all from the blue line. It added up to the sixth time in 29 games this season that the Blueshirts have scored at least five goals.

"That's a good road game," Kreider after the Rangers improved to 9-1 in their last 10 games following a loss. "You know they come on hard here; they throw the kitchen sink at you early. Georgie made some good saves."

Opposite him, Malcolm Subban was taking his seventh straight start for the Golden Knights - two of them against the Rangers -- with Marc-Andre Fleury back with the team but still needing practice time before going back in. Subban had allowed just 11 goals in steering Vegas to a 4-0-1 record in its previous five games; the five goals he surrendered to the Rangers were a season high.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights had gone 52 straight games scoring at least one goal, the League's third-longest active streak without being shut out.

But Georgiev had them figured out from the start, quite literally - just 10 seconds into the game he stopped Reilly Smith cutting unobstructed to his doorstep, then did it twice more from the same spot only minutes later. And when he pushed across to his left during a first-period Vegas power play to put his catching glove to a Max Pacioretty one-timer that seemed destined to be a goal - the save channeled Georgiev's robbery of Columbus' Oliver Bjorkstrand in the last two minutes of Thursday's win in Columbus - the odds on a Georgiev gem were picking up by the minute.

Bjorkstrand on Thursday tied a Blue Jackets franchise record with 10 shots in the game; Pacioretty's nine on Sunday were one shy of a Golden Knights record. Neither could put a single one past Georgiev.

"He really gave us a chance to kind of calm ourselves down," Quinn said, "and then I thought we did a good job in front of him after the first 10, 12 minutes. But those first 12 minutes, he certainly gave us a chance to kind of find our wits about us. He's been playing very, very well."

So has Panarin, who scored his team-leading 14th goal on a right-circle wrist shot through Subban's pads at 11:03; Kreider then tapped in a perfect feed off the right wall from Ryan Strome - who was moved to right wing and had two assists -- at 11:17. Trouba and Fast's goals came 3:18 apart in the second and in similar fashion, both settling pucks with their skates low in the left circle.
 
Zibanejad tacked one on with 4:55 left to keep alive his streak of points in every game the Rangers have played against the Golden Knights, and the Blueshirts held Vegas to just six shots on Georgiev over the final 20 minutes.

"The first goal helps," Quinn said, "but I thought after the first 10 minutes we really started doing a lot of things we're going to need to do, and the thing that I really was proud of is how well we played in the third period. It's 4-nothing and it's easy to kind of get away from what you need to do. But I thought we played a very mature third period."

This from one of the League's youngest teams, a group that now has won seven times in its last 11 games (7-3-1) and is finding resilience that it did not possess at the beginning of the season. It has points in five consecutive road games (4-0-1), and will look to make it six straight on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

"We know this is going to be a hard road trip, and we wanted a good start," Zibanejad said. "We definitely got one."

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