Henrik Lundqvist turned in a scintillating 41-save performance and his teammates scored twice in a span of 37 seconds early in the third period as the Rangers opened their five-game road trip with a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars Thursday night at the American Airlines Center. New York snapped a two-game overall skid with the victory, and has now won five straight games on the road dating back to a 3-2 overtime victory in Detroit on October 26th.
Lundqvist was the best player on the ice, putting forth a virtuoso performance between the pipes for the Rangers. Though handed a 1-0 lead, Lundqvist was really rewarded for his stellar play when the Rangers snapped a 1-1 tie early in the third period on goals by Chris Kreider and John Moore.
Kreider's third goal of the season---an absolute laser from 40-feet out, assisted by Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi---put the Rangers back in front 2-1 at the 1:18 mark of the third. It was Kreider's first goal in ten games; and he now has 12 points (3-9-12) in 15 games played this season, which tied him for third among all NHL rookies in scoring until Dallas' Alex Chiasson scored at 8:27 of the third period, recording his 13th point of the season, cutting the Rangers lead to 3-2.
That goal by Kreider was the first score at even strength by the Rangers in five games, dating back to a Dan Girardi goal nine days ago in a 3-2 loss to the Devils.
Moore snapped another long shot past Kari Lehtonen's gloved hand at 1:55 of the third to give New York its first two-goal lead of the game. The goal---assisted by Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin--was Moore's second of the season, and proved to be a hugely important one when Chiasson later scored for the Stars.
Rick Nash, who scored his first goal of the season---in his fifth game---early in the first period, was awarded a penalty shot 12 seconds after Chiasson's score. Nash skated in with speed, then made a gorgeous move, reaching back to try and tuck his shot past Lehtonen, but the Dallas goaltender stood firm, making a clutch left-pad save, and the score remained tied 3-2.
Lundqvist was so outstanding in the opening period of play that words do not do his performance justice, and the proper adjectives may not exist. Put in more historic terms, the 23 saves Lundqvist made in the first period were the most he has ever made in a single period of play through 528 career appearances, and it helped the Rangers carry a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
The Stars fired from all angles, jammed his crease, and set near-perfect screens, all to no avail as time and again Lundqvist made the save---sometimes in acrobatic, spectacular fashion. Among Lundqvist's greatest moments were his three straight saves, capped by a glove save on Ryan Garbutt while down on his side, with four minutes left to play in the period; his two point-blank right-pad saves that left Valeri Nichushkin shaking his head two minutes later; and another right-pad piece of robbery on a wide-open Sergei Gonchar from in close.
Buoyed by Lundqvist's surreal play, the Rangers were able to score the game-opening goal at 6:27 of the first period---and Lundqvist had a hand in the score, as well. With the Rangers on the power play, Lundqvist outletted a perfect pass to Ryan Callahan, who neatly banged a head-man pass off the right-wing boards up to an open Nash who had slipped behind the Dallas defense. Nash collected the puck, moved in on Lehtonen, made a sweet move, and beat the Stars goalie with a forehand finish for his first goal of the season, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Nash and his linemates---Callahan and Brad Richards---created some magic offensively at even strength during the second period, when the Rangers settled things down somewhat, skating to a dead heat in shots at 13 apiece in the middle 20 minutes. A simply gorgeous give and go in the final minute between Richards and Nash led to a Richards one-timer from the slot that forced perhaps Lehtonen's best save of the game, and Nash buzzed the offensive zone all throughout the period, though four of his attempted shots were fired wide of their intended mark.
Dallas did find a way to finally beat Lundqvist and tie the game at 8:46 of the second period. Stephane Robidas' left wing slap shot deflected off Ryan McDonagh's skate in front and slipped past Lundqvist for a game-tying power play goal. The goal came on the Stars' 29th shot of the game.
The Rangers thought they had regained the lead at 13:27 when Brassard charged the goal area and knocked the puck past Lehtonen. However after a video review, the on ice ruling was overturned as it was ruled Brassard had "batted" the puck in with his glove.
Then with three minutes to play in the period John Moore burst up right wing and rang his shot off iron as the Rangers again came close to breaking the tie.