Game #59: Lundqvist carries determined Blueshirts to 2-1 victory over Hurricanes


Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Blueshirts won a game thanks to Henrik Lundqvist. For the affable 36-year old veteran, it was payback. Facing the same opponent that spoiled the fun following the 25 Year Anniversary celebration of the ’93-94 Stanley Cup team, he turned back the clock with a vintage performance by making 43 saves to carry the Rangers past the Hurricanes 2-1 in Raleigh. Take a look at the two save sequence to deny Justin Williams above.

Wow. With Curtis McElhinney pulled, it sure looked like a desperate Carolina team was about to force overtime. Only Lundqvist prevented it with two straight acrobatic stops by stacking the pads like Johnny Bower. None were bigger. In his 41st game, he had to stop 18 Canes shots in a busy third period with many following Vladislav Namestnikov’s game-winner at 6:10 after a power play expired. It was his 17th victory of the season, moving his goals-against-average under 3.00 (2.97 GAA). Win number 448 moved him within six of Curtis Joseph for fifth all-time.

This was his fifth start in February. Previously, he went 0-3-1 with a 3.04 GAA and .900 save percentage, allowing 12 goals on 120 shots. His last win came on Jan. 31 when he had 19 saves at New Jersey. If you went off the previous meeting versus Carolina on that special Friday, 2/8, he certainly was good enough in making 30 saves. But the Rangers were shutout 2-0 by Petr Mrazek.

The thing about both our goalies is they often have to stand on their heads for this team to win hockey games. Sometimes, their best isn’t enough. Alexandar Georgiev found that out on Sunday at Pittsburgh in a wild and crazy 6-5 loss. He made 35 saves, but allowed six to the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

I think when you look at Lundqvist’s impressive record and statistics throughout his career when he makes 40-or-more saves in the regular season, it speaks volumes. What a great goalie he’s been for this franchise. It still is sad that the team hasn’t won a Cup with him. But he certainly gave them their best chance three different times.

I have no idea what will happen when his contract expires in 2021. He’ll be 39 by then and a free agent. I do expect him to re-up for at least two more years. He’s loyal to the Rangers sweater, and takes good care of himself. Nobody can predict a future that’ll include top Russian goalie prospect Igor Shestyorkin (Shesterkin). He’s expected to finally sign an entry level contract following the conclusion of the St. Petersburg SKA season. Who knows if he’ll be here right away due to Georgiev proving he’s fully capable of backing up. The team also has college prospects Tyler Wall and Adam Huska. I don’t know anything about Olof Lindbom. The Swedish netminder they took in the second round last year.

For now, let’s enjoy these kind of games from Lundqvist while we still can. If only he could get a shutout. This was the sixth time he allowed one goal this season. In those starts, he’s now 5-1-0 with a 1.00 GAA while stopping 192 of 198 shots (.970 save percentage).

My favorite part of his reaction was referring to the last two minutes as, “Organized chaos.” Classic Henrik! πŸ™‚

It’s true they got the ‘W’ due to his brilliant play. But also, how about the two goals they got from grinders Connor Brickley and Namestnikov? Both drove hard to the net and were rewarded for their grunt work. Brickley got his first as a Blueshirt by hustling to the front of the net and putting in a rebound past McElhinney from Filip Chytil and Tony DeAngelo.

Referee Wes McCauley made the mistake of waving it off due to thinking it was put in illegally. However, the replay clarified that it was a good goal. A great response to Jordan Martinook getting the Canes on the board 47 seconds earlier in the second period.

Namestnikov’s winner came just after a power play expired with 13:50 left in the third. Following a brutal shift by the top unit, out came the second unit for the remainder. Like they’ve been doing lately, they moved the puck around quickly and got something set up. Finally, Pavel Buchnevich had a low shot leak out to Jimmy Vesey, whose rebound also wasn’t controlled by McElhinney. That allowed Namestnikov to deposit the loose change for his seventh (third in three games). A good all around play by not only those three, but also from DeAngelo and Ryan Strome.

Despite some undisciplined Carolina penalties including a Brock McGinn trip on DeAngelo that gave the Rangers a 41-second two-man advantage, they couldn’t capitalize. The first unit was again not up to speed. Mika Zibanejad was on the wrong side. By the time he switched places with Kevin Shattenkirk, it was too late. Shattenkirk had a shot blocked and cleared down by the diligent Carolina penalty killers. It was a opportunity wasted.

They also failed on a Justin Faulk delay of game. Even in a strange period that saw Chris Kreider called for interference with Mats Zuccarello having a goal correctly disallowed for pushing McElhinney into the net, they still were ahead one due to the end of their first power play.

Secondary scoring has been a issue throughout the season. So, it was nice to see different players come through for a second time in the last three games. In the 6-2 win at Buffalo, you had Namestnikov getting a pair along with goals from Vesey, Buchnevich, Jesper Fast and Boo Nieves. It can’t always be the same guys scoring. Zibanejad and Zuccarello had help for a change. So too did a snake bit Kreider, who’s without a goal in seven straight despite four assists. Maybe he’s pressing with 30 goals within reach. Hopefully, he gets off the schneid next game against the Wild.

This was a good win. One that highlighted the Rangers brightest star.

BONY 3 STARS:

3rd 🌟 Tony DeAngelo, NYR (picked up an assist giving him points in four straight totaling 5 assists, played well in 22:05)

2nd 🌟 Vladislav Namestnikov, NYR (scored the game-winner for his 3rd goal over 3, has quietly increased his value if he’s traded)

1st 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (43 saves on 44 shots including the key sequence on Williams late to preserve his 448th career win)

Notes: As expected, Brady Skjei returned to the lineup after missing the Pittsburgh game. He was solid overall pairing with Adam McQuaid, logging 21:47 including 2:29 shorthanded with two shots on goal. … Even though he was kept off the score sheet due to having a goal wiped out, Zuccarello led all NYR skaters with 22:57. Zibanejad got 22:02 and Kreider received 21:25 as David Quinn rode his horses. … Even though he picked up a helper on the Brickley goal, Chytil finished with a team low 7:18 on the fourth line. The point gave him 20 as a rookie. He’s the first teenager to register 20 points as a Blueshirt since Alexei Kovalev back in ’92-93. The only difference is Kovalev turned 20 on Feb. 24 that season when he finished with 20 goals and 38 points. Chytil doesn’t turn 20 until Sep. 5.

… With Quinn able to play Fast after he was absent Sunday due to the flu, he went with the more traditional 12 F and 6 D. Fredrik Claesson was a healthy scratch. Neal Pionk was held out again for precautionary. … In defeat, McElhinney turned aside 24 of 26 shots. … Shot attempts were 93-50 Canes. The Blueshirts blocked 23 shots and Carolina missed the net 26 times. DeAngelo blocked a game high five. … Face-offs were 27-25 NYR with Kevin Hayes 8-and-3 while Nieves went 6-and-3. For Carolina, Greg McKegg was 5-and-1 while top scorer Sebastian Aho went 9-and-8.

… Rangers (26-25-8) are up to 60 points with 23 games to go. They have home games against the Wild and Devils Thursday and Saturday with one of those two likely the final one for Hayes and Zuccarello. Prior to Monday’s trade deadline, they visit Washington on Sunday for a third game over four days. Both weekend games are matinees. … With Montreal winning and Columbus losing, the Canes remain a point out for the second wildcard with 68 points.

WILDCARD RACE

1.Canadiens 60 GP 71 Pts 30 ROW

2.Blue Jackets 59 GP 69 Pts 33 ROW

3.Hurricanes 60 GP 68 Pts 30 ROW

4.Sabres 59 GP 63 Pts 24 ROW

5.Flyers 60 GP 63 Pts 26 ROW

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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