Sometimes, you’re only as good as your goalie. For the Rangers, they can thank Henrik Lundqvist for last night’s 2-1 victory over the Blues. It was indeed a Happy Henrik New Year with our franchise netminder standing on his head by making 33 of 39 saves the last two periods to preserve the team’s second straight road win in regulation.
Without him, it would’ve been a forgetful night. After a strong performance in Nashville, Lundqvist pulled within two wins of thing Terry Sawchuk for sixth on the all-time wins list. He won number 443 by stoning a disappointing St. Louis team that has difficulty scoring.
It’s hard to fathom that with Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and David Perron, they are inconsistent offensively. Only O’Reilly and Perron have performed up to expectation. No wonder there are trade winds swirling on the Blues considering breaking it up and starting over. Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo could be on the block.
I doubt outshooting the Rangers 40-23 helped their confidence. In fact, after a first period that saw the Blueshirts outshoot the Blues 14-7, they outshot us by a wide margin the rest of the way. It’s crazy to think St. Louis held a ridiculous 33-9 edge the final two periods. They didn’t score on one of the 33 shots against Lundqvist. Absurd. He was that good.
St. Louis beat him just once. It took a well executed play too. Perron fed a covered O’Reilly for a good one-timer that went in for his 15th to give the home team the lead at 10:08. Like I said, the coverage was good. Nobody did anything wrong. It was simply a good shot by O’Reilly, who’s having his best year after coming over from Buffalo. Jesper Fast was on him.
A game changer was a late power play goal from Mats Zuccarello at 19:40. On the play, Chris Kreider did all the work by skating to the left and in one motion making a terrific pass across for a Zuccarello one-timer that beat Jake Allen. Just his fourth of the season. It was his first goal since Oct. 30. For the year, he has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 25 games. Encouraging is he’s looked better the past three. A good sign with the trade deadline eight weeks away.
For the first time this season, coach David Quinn scratched rookie Filip Chytil. Citing that he’s hit a lull as evidenced by just over 10 minutes in the recent win at Nashville, he decided to give Chytil a night off. Replacing him was gritty rookie Boo Nieves. Ironically, he scored his second for the game-winner only 3:11 into the second. Taking a pass from Ryan Strome at the point, Nieves made a strong move and beat Allen with a good backhand for the game-winner. On the winning play, Cody McLeod parked himself in front as a perfect screen to distract Allen. That type of gritty work is why the team continues to have more success with McLeod in the lineup. They improved to 13-6-0 with him playing on the fourth line.
Admittedly, I didn’t catch much of the final two periods due to the exciting Russia game versus Canada in the World Juniors. A game won by Russia 2-1. Rangers top prospect Vitali Kravtsov had a primary assist on Russia’s tying power play goal. He’s had a good tournament with five points in four games. Russia plays Slovakia in the quarters. Canada must face Finland. For more WJC coverage, please refer to Hockey Prospects. I’ll have a review of USA’s big 4-1 win over Finland up later.
St. Louis certainly created some excellent opportunities to tie the game in crunch time. But a stingy Lundqvist wouldn’t allow it. Following a loose puck that hit the goalpost, he thwarted Schwartz from in tight by closing up the five-hole. His rebound control was superb.
After the final sequence, Lundqvist gave a stick tap to the goalpost before getting congrats from his happy teammates. It was nice to see. He was number one, number two and number three star.
Kevin Shattenkirk also returned just in time to face his former team where he had some good memories as a Blue. He picked up a secondary assist on Nieves’ winner in over 16 minutes played. Tony DeAngelo played over Fredrik Claesson with Brendan Smith the other healthy scratch.
BONY 3 STARS:
3rd 🌟 Ryan O’Reilly, Blues (15th of season, +1 in 21:25 with 13 of 22 draws won)
2nd 🌟 Boo Nieves, NYR (2nd goal of season for game-winner in over 10 minutes)
1st 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (39 saves including the last 33)