We’ve seen this script before. Henrik Lundqvist gets pulled in a bad loss and then comes back with a vengeance the next game. It was a no brainer for Alain Vigneault to go back to the 35-year old Swedish King following an early exit in Toronto.
Facing another struggling opponent who they’re quite familiar with, the Rangers got 34 saves from a laser focused Lundqvist to pitch a 2-0 shutout over Carey Price and the Canadiens at MSG. It was Lundqvist’s 62nd career shutout moving him past Turk Broda into 16th on the all-time list. He only had two all last year.
A rematch of last Spring’s first round pitting two elite goalies against each other was just what the doctor ordered for the Rangers. Particularly Lundqvist, who bested Price in a well goaltended six-game series.
Coming off a disjointed match that saw his team allow five goals in the first period in a 8-5 loss to the Leafs, Vigneault made some lineup changes. He benched Brendan Smith for Nick Holden and dressed Steven Kampfer as a seventh defenseman which meant rookie Filip Chytil was a healthy scratch.
What it likely means is the 21st overall pick will be sent back to the Czech Republic. He’s hardly played which isn’t beneficial for his development. The coach is to blame. Vigneault mentioned that he would discuss Chytil further with Jeff Gorton.
As for sitting Smith, he earned it with some unsteady play the first two games. This is a guy who just re-signed over three years. Imagine if that standard applied to other vets with bigger contracts. It was the right move. Kampfer played physical and gave the team a lift. Holden was okay too.
I’m not fond of going with seven D and 11 forwards. Don’t expect it to continue. At some point, Holden will be traded. Whenever that is, they’ll be down to seven D and will be able to call up a forward. Vinny Lettieri would be the most likely candidate.
In terms of the game, the Rangers were flat at the outset. Montreal came out aggressively using their speed to create scoring chances off the cycle. They were unable to score legally on Lundqvist, who got some help from a successful coach’s challenge that negated a Andrew Shaw goal due to an intentional kick.
The Habs also had another goal wiped out due to video review. Max Pacioretty contacted Lundqvist before scoring. It was a reversal of the call on the ice. It was one of those that could’ve gone either way. Ryan McDonagh was there and gave a slight shove. But Pacioretty banged into Lundqvist knocking him to the seat of his pants. It was probably the right call even though Habs Twitter didn’t agree.
After giving up a lot of shots early, the Rangers settled in and played a better second half. Eventually, they got their offensive game going. Price made a couple of sparkling saves denying Rick Nash twice including a fancy toe save to deny him in tight.
With only 11 forwards, Nash played with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner. They were really good. Miller shifted to center with Chytil watching from the press box. The versatile forward assisted on a Brady Skjei goal with under three minutes left to break a scoreless tie. Grabner drew the primary. Skjei had his centering pass for Grabner deflect off a Hab past Price.
Unlike Saturday, there weren’t many penalties. The Habs had only one power play while the Rangers got three. They had seven shots on Price, who was good despite the lack of support from a anemic offense. How a team with Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and Shea Weber can’t score is beyond comprehension. Claude Julien isn’t a offensive coach. The blueline is suffering minus Andrei Markov. Not good on GM Marc Bergevin. Habs fans hate him.
If there was a constant from the final two periods at Toronto, it was Lindy Ruff’s new first and second pairings. McDonagh again played the right side with Marc Staal on the left. Skjei was with Kevin Shattenkirk, who has looked better since teaming with the second-year defenseman. They look like they should be a thing. Not sure how long Staal stays with McDonagh. His minutes must be managed. He was strong in 19:08 with McDonagh getting 20:25.
The third pair was Holden and Kampfer with Tony DeAngelo the odd man out. Something I called. His giveaway that led to a Toronto goal and minus-two must’ve soured Vigneault. He can have a short leash with young players. DeAngelo only took six shifts getting a grand total of 3:45. Half came on the power play (1:37). That bares watching.
With Lundqvist benefiting from two no goals and turning back the clock with some King saves including a quick glove on a high tester from Artturi Lehkonen, the only question was would he get the shutout. Was there ever any doubt?
Mika Zibanejad scored for a third straight game in the third. Pavel Buchnevich made a great pass from behind the net to Zibanejad, whose quick release caught Price leaning for his team best fourth with 10:50 remaining. It was his first even strength goal. Chris Kreider picked up a assist. He has no goals but three helpers thus far.
Montreal emptied the net with over two minutes to go. It didn’t matter. It was a happy Henrik and a bunch of happier Blueshirts who celebrated their first win. Badly needed.
Three NYR Stars:
Henrik Lundqvist-34 saves for first shutout of season-62nd career, King Henrik has so much character
Brady Skjei-1st of season for GWG, 3 blocks, +1 in 21 shifts-16:33, looks poised with ShattDeuces
Steven Kampfer-took 20 shifts pairing up with Holden and provided steadiness, a good extra D
Oddity: How did Skjei receive less ice-time than Holden or Kampfer? It was the third in four.
NYR controlled face-offs 29-22 led by Miller (10-and-3). A marked improvement from the Leafs loss where they were dominated 46-31. Drouin led the Habs going 9-and-6.
Rangers blocked 17 shots paced by Skjei (3). Four skaters had at least two. Canadiens totaled 9 (Weber/Jordie Benn-2 each).
Shots were 34-25 Montreal. They also led in attempts 63-43. So, the Rangers were out-Corsied. I don’t think they cared.
Columbus Day features 7 games including 3 matinees. The Islanders host the Blues, who will also visit the Rangers on Tuesday. The Devils are at the Sabres at 3 PM. Start time for the Isles is 1. The Bruins host the Avalanche at 1 too.