Lundqvist puts Rangers in driver's seat
Remarkable, 36-save shutout gives Blueshirts 3-0 win and 2-1 series lead
By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
For the second time in the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday afternoon Henrik Lundqvist was unbeatable between the pipes and his Ranger teammates backed him up with three third-period goals en-route to a 3-0 victory over the Devils in Game 3 at The Prudential Center. The Rangers now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Monday night in Newark.
The script on Saturday was eerily similar to the one that was played out in the first game of this series, also a 3-0 Rangers victory where Lundqvist starred and his teammates scored three times in the third period. Except on Saturday Lundqvist had to be even better than he was in Game 1 last Monday at The Garden. While he was solid in making 21 saves to earn the Game 1 shutout, Lundqvist was simply sensational with a 36-save performance in Game 3, with 26 of those saves coming in the first 40 minutes when the Devils---by and large---controlled large swaths of the play.
Lundqvist was at his best in the early portion of the second period when he made a diving arm save after Ilya Kovalchuk broke in alone, and when he fought through traffic in front to deny a Petr Sykora blast and the two subsequent rebounds by Adam Henrique in front. Lundqvist also made a fantastic glove save on a Kovalchuk blast in the third, one that left the Devils sniper visibly upset and frustrated.
The shutout was Lundqvist's third in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs---and sixth post-season blanking of his career.
Dan Girardi, Crhis Kreider, and Ryan Callahan scored in the final period against Martin Brodeur---who had some big moments, as well, in the game. Girardi opened the scoring at 3:19 of the third period when his wrist shot beat Brodeur stick side for a power play goal after a clutch faceoff win in the offensive zone by Brad Richards. The goal was Girardi's third in the playoffs, and he now leads all NHL defensemen in post-season scoring with 11 points.
Less than two minutes later the rookie Kreider gave the Rangers some much needed breathing room by scoring his third goal of this series---and fifth of the playoffs. Callahan swung the puck to left wing where Ryan McDonagh fired a shot towards the net. Kreider cruised in untouched from right wing and tipped the puck past Brodeur to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Kreider has now scored one goal in each of the three games played so far in the conference finals, and he was, most likely, the Rangers most effective forward throughout Game 3.
Callahan closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 17:47. The goal was Callahan's first in seven games, and only his second in the past 13. Brian Boyle---who did a good job of mucling the puck out of the defensive zone before firing, and missing, at the empty net---earned the lone assist on the rangers' final goal.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella made one lineup change in Game 3, choosing to dress veteran defenseman Steve Eminger instead of rookie Stu Bickel, who had played in the previous 16 post-season games.