The only thing missing from this quick start was a shutout for Henrik Lundqvist. In a 3-0 win over the Hurricanes, the Rangers matched their best start in franchise history winning for the 11th time in the first 15 games. In upping their record to 11-2-2, they got another brilliant performance from Lundqvist, who made 33 saves to post his 56th career shutout.
As is often the case with shutouts, he had some help from his best friend the goalpost. Snake bit Canes forward Jeff Skinner hit the post twice. Carolina had some other close calls but were unable to beat Lundqvist. He’s off to a sensational start with eight wins in 12 starts decreasing his goals-against-average to 1.65 and increasing his save percentage to .949 while recording his first shutout of the season.
The Blueshirts didn’t play a good first period. They were out-shot 8-3 by the Canes.But it didn’t much matter due to goals 11 seconds apart from Jesper Fast and Rick Nash. Playing on the fourth line with Jarret Stoll and Emerson Etem, Fast scored for a second straight game when his turnaround shot beat Cam Ward at 9:21. Etem and Keith Yandle drew assists.
On the following shift, a sloppy Canes turnover led to Dan Girardi intercepting a pass and starting a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello and Nash. Drawing attention, Zuccarello slap passed in front to Nash who deked around a very aggressive Ward for a sweet backhand finish for a goal in his return. He missed the previous two games with a stiff back. It was nice to see him actually score into a net as opposed to his only goal being counted when he was taken down with an empty net. Nash had a good night also setting up Ryan McDonagh’s first while recording four shots and finishing plus-two in 28 shifts (16:46).
The Rangers penalty kill got a workout. They were successful killing off all five Carolina power plays. In particular, the top forward tandem of Nash and Derek Stepan created havoc. McDonagh also had one of his best games recording a goal with two hits and four blocked shots. Marc Staal also was a standout aside from a hooking minor that prevented a scoring chance. Girardi was solid going plus-two with a helper and four blocks. He did have one glaring turnover over skating a loose puck that led to a chance against. Of course, a sliding Lundqvist slid across to bail out his teammate.
It wasn’t a masterpiece. But didn’t have to be. After Lundqvist turned aside all 14 Carolina shots in a more entertaining second that saw the teams combine for 28, Nash got in on the forecheck and fed an open McDonagh at the left point for a shot that caromed off Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey past Ward 13 seconds into the third.
Lundqvist did the rest turning aside all 11 shots to earn the shutout. He continues to be the early story. Brilliant play from the 33-year old Swede. Could this be a special season? A Vezina and even a Hart could be in play. But individual awards pale in comparison to the ultimate prize. So far, so good.
Note: The 11-2-2 start matched the Rangers’ best start in 15 games tying 1990. … Rangers blocked 19 shots as a team including 10 in the first. Canes had nine. … In 14 shifts, Etem played his best game recording an assist with two hits in 9:31. Stoll went 8-and-9 on draws. As a team, the Rangers got beat badly 37-21 with the combination of Jordan Staal and Victor Rask going 27-and-9. … Rangers should get a better test when the Blues visit MSG Thursday. St. Louis shutout the Devils 2-0.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (goal-1st of season, +2 in 28 shifts-20:24)
2nd Star-Rick Nash, NYR (goal-2nd of season, assist)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (33 save shutout-56th career)