Leading up to Rivalry Night, the talk centered around Sidney Crosby, who entered on a roll with a seven-game goal streak (10 goals) and 11-game point string (12-10-22). By the night’s conclusion, both Crosby’s streaks were kaput and the discussion was about Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped all 34 Pens shots in a big 3-0 shutout win that gave the Rangers a fourth consecutive win.
Somewhat fittingly, on a night he passed Martin Brodeur for the most wins by an NHL goalie in their first 11 seasons with victory number 366 in game 666, Lundqvist did it in style recording his 58th career shutout.
”I just liked the way we competed,” the 33-year old King Henrik said after being named the game’s first star. ”I felt like we were getting to loose pucks and rebounds. You need guys to step up when they get the opportunity to play more minutes and that’s what we’re having now.”
Using timely scoring from Kevin Hayes and Dominic Moore, the Blueshirts were able to prevail thanks to sensational goaltending from their bread and butter. Lundqvist was especially clutch in a tough second period. Down by a goal, the Pens had most of the play controlling puck possession while generating higher quality chances and outshooting the Rangers 11-6. However, they were unable to take advantage.
”We had some good chances,” Crosby said after being held without a shot while on for all three goals against in 28 shifts (19:48). ”They capitalized on theirs and we didn’t. That was the difference.”
When Lundqvist wasn’t stopping the puck, he also had some luck from the goalposts. The Pens hit two including one from Conor Sheary in the second on a dangerous chance. He went around Marc Staal and was in on Lundqvist beating him top shelf only to see the puck go off the crossbar and stay out. Crosby also nearly set up Phil Kessel, who mishandled the puck in front failing to get a shot off. That’s the kinda season it’s been for the former Maple Leaf who remains an enigma with only 15 goals in 53 games.
Despite being outshot 21-13 through two, the Rangers had the only goal thanks to Hayes, who patiently stayed with a rebound of a Tanner Glass shot and went upstairs on Marc-Andre Fleury at 8:34 of the first. Both Glass and Keith Yandle picked up assists. An unlikely trio considering that Hayes hasn’t scored much. It was just his first goal in 13 games. The assist for Glass was his first point since Dec. 17. Just his third of the season. He has a goal and two assists in 30 games. As for Yandle, he’s been instrumental. The assist gave him six points in the last nine.
Without captain Ryan McDonagh for a second straight game, the Rangers got big performances from Yandle, Staal, Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. The quartet all logged over 20 minutes while contributing offensively and defensively. For Yandle, he finished with three shots and nine attempts while going plus-one in 29 shifts (22:43). Outside of getting beat badly by Sheary and bailed out by a goalpost, Staal did a sound job with Girardi for most shifts at even strength while matched against Crosby. They went plus-two each blocking eight shots. As a team, the Rangers paid the price blocking 25 including five from Dan Boyle. Klein blocked three and took 32 shifts (23:04) finishing plus-one.
”When you miss some of your top people, it’s an opportunity for some other guys to step up,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
With the game still hanging in the balance, a good defensive play by Derek Stepan inside his zone sent Moore in on a two-on-one with Chris Kreider. Using Kreider as a decoy, Moore sniped a perfect laser over Fleury high far side for his first goal since Dec. 30. A nice reward for a hard working checking center who probably won’t return. If it is his final go round, the original Ranger who was drafted out of Harvard has been a consummate pro. It’s easy to forget that he was here when Lundqvist arrived as an unheralded rookie in ’05-06. Moore centered the HMO line flanked by Ryan Hollweg and Jed Ortmeyer.
They were able to protect a two-goal lead with steadier defense and the last line of defense with Lundqvist stopping 13 shots. Vigneault opted to go with the top line of J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast against the Crosby line. They didn’t do a ton offensively but were effective at five-on-five during the match-up. Miller finished with a game high seven hits and Brassard won 11-of-16 faceoffs. All Fast did was take a cheap Kris Letang run sending a backhand into an empty net with 1:31 left to seal the victory.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Kevin Hayes, Rangers (game-winner-8th of season, 3 blocks, +1 in 18 shifts-14:29)
2nd Star-Dan Girardi, Rangers (3 shots, 5 blocks, +2 in 29 shifts-20:47)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (34 saves-3rd shutout-58th career, 366th win in first 11 seasons most all-time among goalies)