Talbot made 38 saves to tie his career-high and lead the Rangers to a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. He is 13-2-3 since starter Henrik Lundqvist sustained a vascular injury and has allowed five goals in his past six starts.
James Sheppard and Matt Hunwick scored for the Rangers, who killed off a late Panthers power play with defenseman Ryan McDonagh off for hooking. New York is 15-2-3 in the 20 games since Lundqvist was sidelined and 33-7-3 since Dec. 8. The Rangers are 14-1-2 in their past 17 games and lead the overall NHL standings with 95 points, the most they've had through 68 games of any season since 1971-72, when they had 101.
But this win may have come at a cost. Forward Martin St. Louis left the game late in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. St. Louis appeared to be favoring his leg while trying to skate it off before retreating to the locker room.
"It doesn't seem to be serious but we'll know more tomorrow," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Rangers helped Talbot with a season-high 36 blocked shots, but they again needed him to be at his best without a lot of offensive support. They've scored all of 10 goals during a five-game winning streak.
"There's no doubt that tonight was all about Cam," Vigneault said. "Not only from the start of the game but in the second period where we barely touched the puck. One player gave us the chance to get two points and we were fortunate that he was on top of his game."
Talbot has been nothing short of sensational. He has an 0.75 goals-against average, .976 save percentage and one shutout during his personal four-game winning streak. He's earned the Rangers at least one point in 15 of his past 16 appearances and in 16 of 18 games since Feb. 4 (13-2-3).
"It didn't surprise anybody in here, to be honest," defenseman Marc Staal said. "Obviously you don't want to see what happened to [Lundqvist] happen, but we're excited for him to get an opportunity to show what he's got on a consistent basis. He's been very good for us as a backup. It's his time to shine."
Panthers forward Brandon Pirri ended Talbot's bid for his sixth shutout with his 15th goal, and 12th in his past 17 games, when he scored off a faceoff at 10:11 of the third period. Dan Ellis made 32 saves for the Panthers, who had their three-game winning streak ended. Florida remains six points behind the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"It's not over," Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr said. "We got 13 games left. If we play like that -- don't forget we played the best team in the League, nobody played them like that -- we have a chance to win 11 or 12 games, you never know. At least we're playing for something."
The Rangers won their sixth straight game against the Panthers dating to Nov. 10, 2013. They are 17-1-0 since Nov. 8 against teams outside of a playoff position, including 3-0-0 against Florida.
Hunwick's goal, his first goal of the season and first as a Ranger, came on a slap shot from the left point through traffic at 8:37 of the third and gave New York a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers controlled play in the second period, firing 20 shots on goal, but Talbot stood tall. Early in the period, Talbot stopped Scottie Upshall and Erik Gudbranson on slap shots before turning aside Jagr's shot off a 2-on-1 rush. Jagr also feathered a pass to an open Aleksander Barkov in front of the net, but Barkov was denied by Talbot.
Talbot's finest moment came at 13:56 of the second when he made two point-blank saves on Panthers captain Willie Mitchell. On Mitchell's third attempt, a backhand to Talbot's left, the puck nearly crossed the goal line but video review confirmed the original call of no goal.
Later in the period, Talbot stopped Panthers center Nick Bjugstad on a breakaway off a long pass to keep the score at 1-0.
"They seemed to be all over us in the second period," Talbot said. "We couldn't really break their cycle too much. When we did we kind of just flipped it in the zone and they would come right back at us in transition. Luckily we were able to weather the storm and come out in the third and get another big goal from [Hunwick] and were able to finish it off."
Playing in his first home game since he was acquired from the San Jose Sharks on March 1 for a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Sheppard made a play behind the Panthers net to find Hunwick, whose shot deflected off Dominic Moore and onto Sheppard's waiting stick in front of the net. He tipped it past Ellis at 17:44 of the opening period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
"It's huge for me just because I was sitting and watching games," said Sheppard, a healthy scratch in each of the past three games. "I just wanted to show that I had that passion for the guys and wanted to go that extra step. I think there were other things to my game I wanted to do besides get a goal but it was definitely something special to do that. Obviously to get the two points is big for us and it's a very satisfying feeling."
With less than a minute remaining in the period, center Kevin Hayes turned the puck over behind the Rangers net, and it deflected off Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen. Talbot deflected the puck with his stick to an open Dave Bolland in the slot. Talbot stopped Bolland's shot and defenseman Dan Girardi poked the puck away from Jokinen in front of an open net to allow Talbot to cover up.
The Rangers are off until Wednesday, when they face the Chicago Blackhawks at MSG (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, TVA Sports). The Panthers begin a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL