Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the shootout round against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 30, 2018, at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

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Hartnett: Game-Winning Goal Could Be Sign Of Things To Come From Shattenkirk

Rangers Defenseman Rounding Into Form Following Surgery

Sean Hartnett
October 31, 2018 - 10:46 am
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The Rangers and Sharks treated spectators inside San Jose's SAP Center and those who stayed up late on the East Coast to a thrilling contest Tuesday night. When the Sharks took a bite on the scoreboard, the Rangers pushed back with offense of their own.

This back-and-forth game had a bit everything -- pretty plays, late drama and moments of brilliance from dueling netminders Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Jones. I hope you poured that second cup of coffee to witness the ending live.

Brent Burns got San Jose out to a 1-0 lead, but the Rangers forced the Sharks into several turnovers and dialed up their effort in a tough road building. Mats Zuccarello’s quick-wristed goal ensured that the Rangers entered the first intermission tied 1-1 after the Blueshirts piled pressure on Jones. New York outshot San Jose 17-6 in the opening frame.

There were moments of exciting, end-to-end hockey. Eight minutes into the third period, Brady Skjei found separation and tested Jones. Jesper Fast was unable to capitalize on the rebound chance, and the Sharks escaped for a two-on-one break. Timo Meier took it to the net himself and beat Lundqvist stick-side, picking the top corner.

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Chris Kreider scored twice in the third period on fine dishes from Skjei and, later, Zuccarello. When it seemed like the Rangers had the game won, Tomas Hertl forced overtime with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

Overtime presented both teams with power-play minutes and flurries of chances. It took a shootout to decide a winner. Kevin Shattenkirk scored the lone shootout goal, and the Blueshirts earned a wild 4-3 win at the Shark Tank.

It was only fitting that Shattenkirk notched the shootout winner after he flashed his creativity throughout the night to set up teammates for Grade-A scoring chances. He demonstrated his skill on the Rangers’ first goal by banking a pass off the boards near the San Jose bench into Zuccarello’s path.

Shattenkirk has been a hotly debated player on social media. Some of his detractors view him as a liability in the defensive zone. I’ve always been of the opinion that Shattenkirk’s quickness at advancing the puck either through his legs or excellent vision outweighs his weaknesses. The best form of defense is keeping the puck away from danger, and Shattenkirk does that by moving the puck efficiently out of the Rangers’ end.

Keep in mind, Shattenkirk had a long recovery following January surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He’s only just gotten back into the swing of things, and you’re starting to see a return to the form that made him the most coveted player of the 2017 free agent class. Shattenkirk has recorded three assists in the last seven games.

His offense-generating passes, poise with the puck on his stick and mastery in man-advantage situations make him a rare player in this league. When healthy, he’s always been a game-changer and one of the league’s most productive defensemen. The New Rochelle native has recorded 43 points or better in every season of his career aside from last season’s injury-hit campaign and the 48-game lockout-shortened season of 2012-13.

The best is yet to come from Shattenkirk in a Rangers uniform, and I don’t think he’s far away from playing up to his $6.65 million-per-year price tag.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey​.​