Game 23: A Winning Streak! Classic Lundqvist performance makes for a Happy Thanksgiving, Fox burns Hurricanes

Henrik Lundqvist continued his mastery over the Hurricanes by stopping 41 of 43 shots to help the Rangers win 3-2 along with budding rookie Adam Fox, who had a goal and assist on Turkey Eve. AP Photo by Jared Silber via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Rangers played their final game before Thanksgiving. They made it a happy one for all the fans who attended by holding off the Hurricanes 3-2 at MSG on Turkey Eve.

The one goal victory wouldn’t have been possible without Henrik Lundqvist. The 37-year old veteran goalie was at his best turning away 41 of 43 shots to preserve the team’s third win in a row. For the first time this season, they have a winning streak. Cue up the classic line from skipper Lou Brown expertly played by the memorable James Gammon in Major League II when he tries to fire up the Indians in the locker room. It finally applies.

It’s funny because I’ve made reference to that line a half dozen times, or so it seems. Hasan also uses it along with other classic Major League references. We do it because it’s fun and it’s the perfect sports movie to apply to our teams. Who doesn’t love comedy? You could probably use Bob Uecker’s even more comical Indians TV announcer Harry Doyle for many other times when things aren’t going well for our teams. True enough, Major League was on last night. I caught the awesome ending on Ovation.

So what does last night’s satisfying win mean for the rebuilding Rangers? For starters, they look like they’re headed in the right direction. Upping their record to 12-9-2 and above real .500 (12-11) is definitely a positive. Along with the continued development of improving young players such as Adam Fox (game-winning goal, assist) and Ryan Lindgren (assist), you have to be pleased if you’re coach David Quinn.

It was exactly the type of game you want to see this team come out on top in. The Hurricanes aren’t Montreal or Minnesota. They’re better due to their aggressive offensive system that emphasizes skating, transition and puck possession. Even though Lundqvist has their number, this isn’t the same team from a few years ago. They proved it on Wednesday by nearly rallying from a 3-0 first period deficit.

As usual, Carolina picked up the tempo in the final two periods following a poor first that put them behind by a field goal. It was all Blueshirts early on. In his first game back from the mysterious upper body injury that kept him out 13 games, Mika Zibanejad scored on the power play only 2:54 in. Fox made a great feed across for a Zibanejad one-timer that Petr Mrazek had no chance on. Artemiy Panarin helped set it up. Welcome back Mika.

More astonishing was seeing Brendan Smith perfectly one-time a good Lindgren pass for his second of the season 1:18 later for a 2-0 lead. Tony DeAngelo added an assist to raise his total to 18 points (7-11-18). He is off to a great start.

Even though they struggled defensively in the early going, Carolina did get 10 shots on Lundqvist, who was sharp like his previous start on Monday when he passed Curtis Joseph for sole possession for fifth on the all-time wins list. He is moving better and his rebound control in particular has improved.

With less than two minutes left in the period, a great passing play between Libor Hajek set up a low Panarin one-timer that an aggressive Fox tipped home past Mrazek for a 3-0 lead. Normally, you don’t expect your defensemen to be in front like Fox was. However, Brent Burns is one of the best at that. We also saw Brady Skjei score a similar goal earlier this year by tipping in a Smith shot. It was a good read by one of the NHL’s best rookies. Fox is now up to 14 points (4-10-14). Not quite Cale Makar territory, but his evolvement is noticeable.

As expected, the Canes picked it up the rest of the way. It started in a much better middle stanza that saw them outshoot the Rangers 16-9. In fact, they held a hefty 33-14 edge in shots the final two periods. That’s the kind of talent they have. In particular, super sophomore Andrei Svechnikov was everywhere. When he wasn’t firing dangerous shots on goal that Lundqvist stopped, he was playing physical by finishing checks. The 19-year old Russian has a little Ovechkin in him. A terrific skater with good size and strength, he’s an emerging star.

For a while, it looked like Carolina would be hard pressed to sneak one past Lundqvist. In his two wins this month versus them, he’s stopped 86 of 90 shots (.956 save percentage). Basically, he’s the biggest reason they won the first two games of the season series. The 41 saves he made improved his save percentage from .910 to .914. Hard to believe Lundqvist has that while still having a 3.17 GAA.

It wasn’t until some confusion at the Ranger bench helped get the Canes back in the game. Both Brendan Lemieux and another skater jumped into the ice at the same time to cause a bench minor for too many men on the ice. It was their third one over the last four games. Unacceptable. Lemieux missed some shifts before returning for the third.

With Pavel Buchnevich serving the penalty, the Hurricanes finally connected thanks to a good Ryan Dzingel wrist shot through traffic beating Lundqvist to cut the lead to 3-1 at 14:29. Dougie Hamilton and Svechnikov earned assists on Dzingel’s fifth.

Finally alive, they pressed for more and got even closer 1:31 later. On a Jaccob Slavin shot that Lundqvist thought he had underneath him, a checked Warren Foegle was able to poke in the rebound for his fourth win 4:02 left in the second. Despite some protests from Lundqvist, the goal correctly stood due to Lindgren hitting Foegle from behind to carry his momentum so he could push in the loose puck. A good ruling by refs Jon McIsaac and Garrett Rank.

Things got dicier when Ryan Strome took a hi-sticking minor when he accidentally caught the inside of Hamilton’s helmet with 1:36 remaining. However, the Carolina eighth ranked power play that had already cashed in once, failed to score. Lundqvist made a couple of strong saves and the penalty killers did a solid job to escape the period up one.

The third was mostly Hurricanes. They came like a storm literally. Following the Blueshirts killing the remaining 24 seconds of the Carolina power play, it was the guests that hounded Lundqvist’s net in search of the equalizer. He really had to be on his toes. Though perhaps his biggest save came when he somehow got the end of his goal stick on a shot that was headed in. It was a desperation move that probably saved the game.

Even though they hardly could sustain a consistent attack, the Rangers had a couple of chances to extend the lead. Filip Chytil was dangerous during his shifts and was the best Rangers forward. You can really see his confidence building. He also was solid defensively. He got some turns with Panarin and Strome, who didn’t have any luck finishing on a point blank opportunity that he fanned on with an open net. He would draw a interference minor on Hamilton with 9:31 left.

However, the Rangers were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage. They really didn’t set up much. They were outshot 17-5 in the third. A Chytil trip of Lucas Wallmark forced them to kill one more penalty late in regulation. Even though Lundqvist was under siege, he stopped the puck and got a good effort from his penalty killers.

With Mrazek on the bench for an extra attacker, it was nerve racking. But smart defensive positioning by Brett Howden forced Sebastian Aho to take a tripping minor in the offensive zone with only 36 seconds remaining. That was a big play that helped them finish the game off.

After winning a defensive draw, Mrazek again went to the bench for a fifth player. But the Canes didn’t have enough time to get a shot as the final buzzer sounded with Lundqvist fielding a soft backhand attempt as the Rangers celebrated.

It was a hard fought win against a quality opponent. They’ve now dealt the Hurricanes two of their nine losses in regulation with Lundqvist largely responsible. He improved his career record to an outstanding 32-12-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .935 save percentage.

Following being named the game’s number one star, he explained to MSG’s John Giannone that even though it was a battle, he liked how hard the team competed. They battled in front of him by sacrificing their bodies by blocking 22 shots led by Jacob Trouba’s three along with Skjei (3). In fact, 15 of the 18 Rangers skaters had a block.

That’s how team oriented they were. They may have been outshot 43-25 and out-attempted 80-50. But their commitment paid off. Thirty-seven of Carolina’s 80 attempts didn’t reach the net.

Now, they have today off and can enjoy the turkey or ham with all the trimmings. They have to be ready early tomorrow afternoon for the big Black Friday 1 PM matinee at the Bruins. Last time out, they were humiliated at home. Let’s see if they have good memories and payback the league’s top team.

Expect Lundqvist to start with him finally in a good groove. I would figure Quinn to go to Alexandar Georgiev for Saturday’s back-to-back road match against the Devils. Also a 1 PM start.

Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟

3rd 🌟 Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes (assist, 6 shots, 11 attempts, 3 hits in 18:20)

2nd 🌟 Adam Fox, Rangers (4th goal for game-winner plus 🍎 in 19:20, up to 4-10-14 in rookie season)

1st 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (41 saves including 17 of 17 in 3rd, 86 of 90 shots stopped in 2 wins vs Canes)

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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