NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist started his Sunday afternoon looking to secure two big points against an Eastern Conference rival. He ended it by adding another page to the team's illustrious history.
Lundqvist made 30 saves to earn his 300th career win and the Rangers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is one win shy of tying Mike Richter for the Rangers franchise win record and his 49th career shutout tied him with Ed Giacomin on the team's all-time list.
"I didn't think about it going into the game, but after two periods I started thinking about it. I wanted to reach [300 wins] tonight. It's a good way of challenging yourself," Lundqvist said. "Going into the third period with a lead, you just have to stay focused and do your thing. The guys will take care of the rest."
Chris Kreider did his part to "take care of the rest" with two goals and Brian Boyle opened the scoring for New York (35-26-4); Jimmy Howard stopped 28 of 31 shots for Detroit (29-22-13). Lundqvist extended his shutout streak against Detroit to 176:24, a run that consists of 91 shots dating back to March 21, 2012.
"He's the best goalie in the world. The best around the League and we're lucky enough to have him on our team," Kreider said of Lundqvist. "It's an amazing accomplishment."
The win moved New York one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Boyle opened the scoring on what appeared at first to be a spoiled odd-man rush. John Moore took a drop pass and had a shooting lane in the slot, but was stopped by the oncoming Daniel Alfredsson, who broke Moore's stick in the process. The loose puck slid right to Boyle, who spun around and fired a wrist shot that trickled past Howard 5:14 into the game for his fifth goal.
"Our team is deep. We want to be a part of this. It's good to contribute offensively," Boyle said. "It was a pretty gutty win this afternoon. A lot of checking and grabbing, but we fought through it and did a good job."
The first half of the opening period belonged to New York, which outshot Detroit 9-4 in the first 10 minutes. The Rangers almost scored again when Marc Staal flipped a football-style pass the length of the ice that found Derick Brassard streaking toward the Detroit net. Brassard went in alone on Howard and went to his backhand, but the shot grazed off Howard's right pad and glided wide of the left post with 11:21 left in the period.
With three shots in the opening 86 seconds, the Rangers stormed out of the gate and the Red Wings had trouble generating offensive-zone pressure in the first as their counter-attack was frustrated by a disciplined Rangers defense.
"It wasn't good. We had a hard time getting the zone," Detroit center Gustav Nyquist said. "We had one or two good looks, but we've got to get more pucks to the net. We're passing up too many shots."
After the teams traded chances in the second period, Kreider gave New York a 2-0 lead 14 seconds into the third. Nyquist's failed clearing attempt skipped to Derek Stepan, who fed Ryan McDonagh at the point. The Rangers defenseman fired a low, hard slap shot from the point that Kreider tipped over Howard's left shoulder. The picture-perfect tip gave Kreider his 15th goal of the season and New York a comfortable third-period lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Kreider's second goal put the game away with 7:49 remaining. Stepan started the play by beating Niklas Kronwall to a loose puck and creating a 2-on-1 rush as he sped out of the defensive zone. He fed Kreider with a long cross-ice pass just as he entered the Detroit zone and made no mistake, putting a hard, rising shot that beat Howard inside the left post. Stepan and McDonagh each earned their second assist of the game.
That hustle play from the Rangers' top line ended the day for a Red Wings team that was criticized by its coach.
"I thought that was our worst game probably since the first of January. I'm not trying to take anything away from the Rangers, I thought they played hard, but we weren't competitive enough," coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't compete physically in the offensive zone, we didn't make it hard on Lundqvist. I was disappointed with our group today. We obviously as a coaching staff didn't have them prepared."
New York failed to generate chances at the start of the second period, firing one shot in the first eight minutes. The Red Wings sustained pressure in the Rangers' zone during that time but failed to beat Lundqvist, who got help from a defense that blocked five shots in the first 5:28 of the second. The Rangers' leading shot-blocker, Dan Girardi, blocked two shots six seconds apart while Detroit maintained offensive-zone pressure.
"Right now we need contributions, whether it's blocked shots or making heads-up plays," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We had a couple of games where 5-on-5 we weren't scoring a lot of goals. But tonight's hopefully a start we can carry."
The teams traded opportunities with the man advantage and Detroit's best chance came with 8:20 remaining in the second after Daniel Carcillo was called for tripping. Johan Franzen weaved behind the New York net and found Todd Bertuzzi open at the lip of the crease. Bertuzzi snapped a quick one-timer from point-blank range but Lundqvist cut down the angle to make his finest save of the afternoon on his way to another landmark achievement in an impressive career.
"I've been talking to a few people about it [300 wins] lately, reaching it. It's been on my mind," Lundqvist said. "It's a big deal to me to be able to reach that."