UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When the New York Rangers were hit with the news during the first week of February that No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would miss several weeks because of a vascular injury, perhaps some thought their chances of winning the Metropolitan Division were ruined.
The Rangers were 29-15-4 at the time, three points behind the first-place New York Islanders, but eight points from being outside the Stanley Cup Playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
With Lundqvist out, the Rangers had to turn to backup Cam Talbot, who entered the season with 21 games of NHL experience. He had terrific numbers as Lundqvist's backup in 2013-14, finishing with a 1.64 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
But this time, Talbot wasn't being asked to give Lundqvist a night off. He had to carry the load and perform well if the Rangers were going to remain in the race.
Things got off to somewhat of a rocky start. Talbot allowed three or more goals in four of the first five games following Lundqvist's injury, although the Rangers provided some offense and managed to win three of them.
But including the Rangers' 2-1 win against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, Talbot has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his past four starts. He made 29 saves, several at key moments, to help the Rangers pull within a point of the Islanders in the Metropolitan with four games in hand.
"I felt really strong from the get-go," Talbot said after his 15th win of the season. "I've been gaining confidence game after game here, and the guys have been unbelievable in front of me, so it's been fun."