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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers equaled a franchise record by securing their fourth consecutive 40-win season as they posted a 3-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils behind Henrik Lundqvist’s 38 saves on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
The only other time in franchise history that the Rangers won 40 or more games four years in a row was from 1970-71 through 1973-74.
With the win, the Rangers now have 89 points, and remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They are now just one point behind sixth-place Pittsburgh and two behind fifth-place Carolina, whom the Rangers will face on the road in their next match on Thursday night.
“We’re fighting for our lives, and so we are taking it a game at a time,” stated Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I know the playoffs are a subject, but we just want to get in. And I thought we played a really solid game against a very good opponent tonight.”
The shutout was the fourth this season for the Blueshirts, and the third for Lundqvist, who now has 20 in his career. The win was Lundqvist’s 35th of the season, fourth-most in the NHL.
“This year I haven’t has as many (shutouts) as last year, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” explained Lundqvist, who blanked New Jersey for the third time in his career. “But I am happy for this one because I made up my mind before the third period that I wanted this one, and it worked out.”
Much of the pre-game hype surrounded bitter on-ice rivals Sean Avery of the Rangers and Martin Brodeur of the Devils. In the end, their story was more about Avery’s restraint against a torrent of cheap shots -- especially in the third period when he was thrown to the ice twice by New Jersey’s David Clarkson without retaliating and then was high-sticked by Jamie Langenbrunner before being flung down again in the final minute by Mike Rupp -- as well as Lundqvist outplaying Brodeur between the pipes.
“It was a big-time game by us,” said Avery. “We showed the patience, got in on the forecheck more. It was a good game for the Blue, for sure.”
After a hard-hitting, scoreless first period, in which the Rangers outshot the Devils 20-10, the Blueshirts jumped out to a 2-0 lead by scoring two goals just two minutes apart early in the second period.
Brandon Dubinsky opened the scoring at 4:35 of the middle stanza by potting his 11th goal of the season, and second in as many games. After Brodeur made a sprawling save on Dan Girardi’s right-wing shot, Dubinsky collected the rebound and patiently waited for Brodeur to slide further out of position before sailing the puck into the top of the cage.
Shortly after Dubinsky’ goal, Lundqvist made three superb saves during a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net. Lundqvist preserved the 1-0 lead by denying Niclas Havelid’s deflection, as well as Havelid’s rebound attempt, before somehow finding Bobby Holik’s trickling shot through a maze of skates.
“Henrik was very good tonight,” stated Tortorella. “And for us to make the playoffs, and go anywhere in the postseason, we are going to need him.”
Lundqvist’s heroics paid off handsomely moments later when Girardi increased the Blueshirts’ lead to 2-0 at the 6:39 mark of the second with both teams skating 4-on-4. Chris Drury sent a left-wing shot on goal that Brodeur stopped, but Nik Antropov used his tremendously long reach to control the rebound in the slot. Antropov poked the puck back to Girardi, and the Rangers’ defenseman fired a shot that Drury deflected past Brodeur for his fourth goal of the season.
The goal was originally awarded to Girardi, who had not scored in 53 games, but video review later gave it to Drury, who now has 20 goals on the season.
“With the sing-song “Marty! Marty!” chant filling The Garden, the Rangers struck again before the second period was complete. Ryan Callahan accepted a Scott Gomez cross-ice pass and blasted a right-wing shot past the beleaguered Brodeur for his 21st goal at 15:06.
As The Garden Faithful erupted in a long sustained ovation, Brodeur stood motionless alone in his crease, staring straight ahead.
Brodeur did have some excellent moments before the Rangers’ three-goal outburst in the middle stanza. Among the best stops he made during a 20-save first period were a pair on Antropov and Drury from in-tight with four minutes remaining. And just 46 seconds into the second period, he made an alert stick save on Drury’s falling-down backhand shot from the low slot.
“Our guys kept their patience,” noted Tortorella. “Twenty shots tells you that you are playing in their end zone. You just have to keep at it. They are one of the top teams in the league, and for us to win a hockey game (against the Devils) we have to play in their end, which we did.”
But clearly Lundqvist was the sharper goaltender on this night. While Lundqvist was good in the first period, he stepped up his game in the second when he stopped all 19 shots he faced.
His best moment came 3:15 into the middle period when, with the game still scoreless, he denied Brian Rolston’s partial breakaway attempt with a big pad save. When the rebound careened to the right wing circle on to the stick of Holik, Lundqvist put himself into perfect position to make an outstanding pad stop on Holik’s quick wrist shot.
“It was a great game, just so much fun to be out there to play,” noted Lundqvist. “We really took the challenge in the right way. We did a good job. And it was just a great atmosphere out there.”
There was much give and take physically between the two teams, though for the most part it was a clean hard-hitting contest. Gomez was very active in the physical part of the game, including a big hit on Travis Zajac which flattened the Devils forward midway through the opening stanza.
Callahan, as usual, led the hit parade for the Blueshirts, though he was also on the receiving end of a thunderous hit thrown by New Jersey’s Colin White late in the first. However, Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal gained a measure of revenge by drilling Dainius Zubrus to the ice mere seconds later.
After being forced to kill off nine power plays the game before in Pittsburgh, the Rangers were shorthanded only twice on Monday, despite the high level of physical play.
“Discipline is something we’ve been talking about all year, and to actually see it executed the right way, to play hard and to finish checks, is nice to see,” said Drury.
|Brandon Dubinsky (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Dan Girardi (17), Fredrik Sjostrom (6)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Chris Drury (20) Tip-in - ASST: Dan Girardi (18), Nik Antropov (30)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Callahan (21) Snap shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (40), Sean Avery (13)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Travis Zajac Hooking against Marc Staal|
|Nik Antropov Roughing against Colin White|
|Colin White Roughing against Nik Antropov|
|Bobby Holik Roughing against Scott Gomez|
|Scott Gomez Roughing against Bobby Holik|
|Mike Mottau Tripping against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Michael Rupp Roughing against Marc Staal|
|Nikolay Zherdev Hooking against Johnny Oduya|
|Brendan Shanahan Roughing against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Roughing against Brendan Shanahan|
|David Clarkson Misconduct (10 min)|
|Sean Avery Roughing against David Clarkson|
|David Clarkson Roughing against Sean Avery|
|David Clarkson Roughing against Sean Avery|
|Paul Mara Cross checking against Travis Zajac|
|Michael Rupp Roughing against Sean Avery|
|SA: 37||TOI: 59:58|
|Saves: 34||EV: 30 - 33|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .919||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 38||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 38||EV: 35 - 35|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 2 - 2|