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Georgiev turns back Maple Leafs in birthday masterpiece for Rangers
10 2019 . New York Post. By Larry Brooks

This is becoming a ritual for the Rangers.

When Henrik Lundqvist turned 36 last March 2, the King faced 51 shots and stopped 50 of them in the Rangers 3-1 victory in Calgary.

So naturally, when Alexandar Georgiev turned 23 on Sunday, the Bulgarian faced 56 shots and stopped 55 of them in the Blueshirts 4-1 victory over the high-octane Maple Leafs at the Garden.

Whos got the presents for the goalie with the presence to have turned away all 23 of Torontos power-play shots during its eight minutes with the man-advantage?

I tried to have a special birthday, said Georgiev, at his best early in making rapid-fire close-in stops on John Tavares and Auston Matthews on Torontos first power play. I tried not to concentrate on the birthday wishes because I had an important game in front of me.

Im very happy it ended the way it ended.

As stout as the netminder was in holding his ground on repeated close-in put-backs, the 56-28 final tally in shots was not indicative of the way the match evolved. Yes, the Maple Leafs did have considerable zone time through swatches of the match, but it never seemed as if Georgiev was under siege the way he or Lundqvist has been at different times.

Five-on-five, I think we were the better team, Mats Zuccarello, who had two assists, said. They have a lot of skilled, strong players, but I thought we did a good job against them. Georgie was fantastic, but I dont think the shots really tell the story of the game.

Indeed, neither did David Quinn, who used the seven defensemen he dressed to his advantage, sliding Neal Pionk in on Marc Staals right for a series of shifts early and late in the third when Tony DeAngelo struggled.

This is going to sound insane, but I thought we defended well, the coach said. Theyre a scary, scary team. They have high-end talent, they can beat you one-on-one, but boy, I thought we did a good job clearing the net front out, they didnt have many chances five-on-five.

You look at the shot total, and I felt like a complete idiot walking off the ice [thinking], Yeah, we defended pretty well. But we did.

Nazem Kadri was credited with 12 shots on 16 attempts. Tavares had eight shots. Matthews had five shots on 11 attempts. Thing is, though, Quinn is correct. The Rangers guarded well against odd-man rushes and they did a reasonably good job of taking away the slot. Torontos only goal came on a Kasperi Kapanen breakaway at 10:35 of the first period after the speedy winger intercepted DeAngelos unwise attempt at a rink-wide pass at the Maple Leaf line and blasted one in off the post.

That tied the score 1-1 after the Blueshirts had scored on the games first shift, Mika Zibanejad drilling one home from the left circle at 0:38 after Garret Sparks had stopped Zuccarello twice from in front. Yes, another backup goaltender against the Blueshirts, this one night after Frederik Andersen was in nets for Torontos emotional overtime victory in Montreal.
But the identity of the visiting goaltender should not detract from this victory over a league powerhouse. You can only score on and beat the goalies they put in front of you. It just provides a matter of context as does recognizing how often upper-echelon teams look past clubs like the Rangers in evaluating the team and the season.

Do we want our goalies facing 50, 60 shots? No, but sometimes you need a performance like this and [Georgiev] came up big, said Zibanejad, who has recorded 11 goals with eight assists in the past 12 matches. But I thought we played well. We scored on our chances and that was enough.

The Rangers dont convert their opportunities nearly enough, so this was a good night for the shooters. Jimmy Vesey, restored to top-six duty on the wing and absent from the scoring column since Jan. 13, rang one up by ripping a right-wing drive off a nifty Chris Kreider feed past Sparks for a 2-1 lead at 14:05 of the first. Tertiary scorer Adam McQuaid got his second in four games for a 3-1 lead at 11:59 of the third before Hayes salted it with an empty-netter.

Still, even if the Rangers did defend well, even if most of the shots werent necessarily high-danger tries, there were a lot of them and only one went in.

The guy never wavers. Hes getting better and better, Quinn said of Georgiev. If youre with him every day, you see his approach and how committed he is.

I havent gotten anything for him yet [for his birthday] but theres going to be a big gift, soon.

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