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• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Henrik Lundqvist and Tomas Vokoun waged quite a goaltending battle on Friday night at the BankAtlantic center in Sunrise, Florida. Though neither deserved a loss, one had to lose.
And in a game that was decided in the shootout, Lundqvist blinked first by surrendering a game-winning score to Richard Zednik as the Rangers dropped a 2-1 decision to the Florida Panthers.
“I thought our team battled tonight, and it was a tough road game for us,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “We came to play, worked hard, had our chances. Henrik was stellar, of course. But we just couldn’t put it away.”
Both Lundqvist and Vokoun were outstanding through regulation and overtime. And both were perfect through the first three rounds of the shootout.
Lundqvist denied Cory Stillman, Nathan Horton, and Stephen Weiss in the first three rounds. His glove save on Weiss was scintillating. However, Zednik was able to zip his shot between Lundqvist’s pads in the fourth round to put the Panthers on the verge of victory.
Vokoun, who made 34 saves one night after shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes, held his ground to make a huge save on Nikolai Zherdev’s backhand shot in the fourth round to secure the win for Florida. He had earlier denied Markus Naslund, Nigel Dawes, and Ryan Callahan in the shootout.
In, perhaps, his finest performance of an All Star season, Lundqvist made a season-high 42 saves, the fourth time in his career that he has had 40 or more saves in a game. He made four in the five-minute overtime, including a game-saver on David Booth in the final seconds.
“He was outstanding, there’s no question about that,” Renney said of Lundqvist. “When we needed it, he made some really huge saves and gave us the chance to attack the other way and play with confidence.”
Lundqvist turned in a highlight-reel sequence during a Panthers power play midway through the third period. As the Rangers killed off the two-minute minor to Erik Reitz, Lundqvist was incredible between the pipes with six saves. He made an absolutely incredible diving glove save while prone on the ice to rob Horton of what seemed to be a sure-bet score mere seconds after making an initial save on a booming shot through traffic.
“We say it all the time, (Henrik) is the best goalie in the world and he makes saves that not many other guys in this league can make,” said Brandon Dubinsky.
The Rangers, who snapped a five-game winless skid with a 5-4 shootout victory on Wednesday evening against the Washington Capitals, are now 1-4-2 in their last seven matches. By gaining a point on Friday night, the Rangers secured sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 66 points, one better than the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers will host the Flyers on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
“We’ll take what we can get, but right now it’s just really frustrating,” said Lundqvist.
A clutch contribution from the fourth line, along with some stellar goaltending by Lundqvist, helped the Rangers grab a 1-0 lead after one period of play on Friday.
Blair Betts started the only scoring play of the opening stanza by making a gorgeous move around a Florida defenseman at the Panthers right wing circle. Betts then followed by snapping a shot on goal which was stopped by Vokoun, but Betts’ linemates -- Fredrik Sjostrom and Colton Orr -- were both there to bang away at the rebound in the crease.
After several determined swats by each forward, the puck slid under Vokoun’s pads and over the goal line at the 17:14 mark of the first to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Sjostrom was credited with his fourth goal of the season on the play.
That the Rangers were even in position to score the game’s first goal was due to the sensational body of work put forth Lundqvist, who stopped all 15 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
Lundqvist proved to be on top of his game right from the first drop of the puck as he was required to make a pair of sterling stops in the first minute of the match. A sharp pad save on Radek Dvorak’s deflection in front was followed by a quick glove save on David Booth’s hard wrist shot, and it was clear that Lundqvist had come to play at a high level.
Several minutes later Lundqvist made two solid pad saves on long shots through screens by Jay Bouwmeester and Michael Frolik. And at 10:26, Lundqvist made a great blocker save on Booth’s rising left wing wrist shot off a 3-on-2 down low advantage.
Moments before Sjostrom’s goal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, Lundqvist turned in a terrific pad save on an Anthony Stewart shot during a wild scramble in front of the net.
There was more of the same from Lundqvist in the second period, though Florida was able to get one shot past him to forge a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes of action. Lundqvist denied 10 of the 11 shots he faced in the second.
The Panthers, though, pulled even 2:37 into the middle stanza on a spinning shot from Frolik in the slot that beat Lundqvist between the pads. Rangers’ defenseman Michal Rozsival was hounded into a giveaway behind his own net by the forechecking Weiss. Stillman collected the puck and whisked a pass in front to Frolik, who quickly scored for his 13th goal of the season.
Lundqvist continued to make big stops after surrendering the goal. His stick save on Booth’s blast from 20 feet out at 4:17 was top notch, as was his pad save to rob Frolik’s left wing shot after scrambling to get back into position following his own turnover at 14:40.
Although the Rangers did not score in the second period, they generated better scoring chances than in the opening period. Betts, who played a strong two-way game all night, nearly beat Vokoun to the far side of the net on a left wing wrist shot at 2:10, but the veteran netminder flashed out his left pad just in time to deflect the puck wide of its mark. Dawes chipped in with back-to-back quality chances midway through the period from left wing, but Vokoun was sharp in stopping both.
Perhaps the Rangers’ best opportunity to regain the lead in the second came at the 12:41 mark. Dubinsky made a great move to shake free in the low slot and, with Vokoun deked to the ice, began to wind up to shoot at the open cage. However, Bouwmeester alertly swatted the puck away, and Dubinsky was denied.
Dubinsky had another great scoring chance 7:43 into the third period. After receiving a good lead pass from Zherdev, Dubinsky worked his way out from behind the Panthers net looking to wrap the puck past Vokoun. But again Bouwmeester came to the rescue of his goalie, getting a skate in the way of Dubinsky’s shot, and the puck trickled wide of the cage.
With two minutes left in regulation Dubinsky tried another wraparound, and this time the puck slid under Vokoun’s pads, traveled along the goal line, and slithered just wide of the net.
“I thought we had our fair share of chances, and I had a few good chances myself, and I have to bear down -- we have to bear down -- and find a way to put a few of those in the back of the net,” said Dubinsky.
Vokoun then would help assure overtime with a quick glove save on Scott Gomez’s right-wing snap shot off a turnover with 49 seconds remaining. Lundqvist did his part to make overtime a reality with an outstanding one-on-one save on Booth’s hard five-foot shot with 12.3 seconds left.
“It was a fun game to play,” concluded Lundqvist. “There was a lot of action, a lot of shots, pretty good speed. A lot of good things, but right now we’re looking for the two points and we can’t be too happy with this result.”
|Brandon Dubinsky Fighting (maj) against Gregory Campbell|
|Gregory Campbell Fighting (maj) against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Aaron Voros Interference against Ville Peltonen|
|Nick Boynton Misconduct (10 min)|
|Nick Boynton Fighting (maj) against Paul Mara|
|Nick Boynton Instigator against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Fighting (maj) against Nick Boynton|
|Paul Mara Cross checking against David Booth|
|Nathan Horton Hi-sticking against Michal Rozsival|
|Nathan Horton Hi-sticking against Michal Rozsival|
|Michal Rozsival Interference against Nathan Horton|
|Erik Reitz Hooking against Gregory Campbell|
|David Booth Hooking against Lauri Korpikoski|
|SA: 43||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 42||EV: 35 - 36|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .977||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 35||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 34||EV: 32 - 33|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .971||SH: 0 - 0|