A stout defensive effort from the New York Rangers helped Henrik Lundqvist to his NHL-leading 11th shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Boston Bruins in a Saturday matinee at TD Garden.
Derek Stepan scored early in the first period, and then the Rangers frustrated the Bruins with strong defense and goaltending the rest of the way, but particularly in the third period. New York has now won six of the past seven games to pull even with sixth-place Montreal at 87 points, though the Canadiens play Saturday night against Washington.
"It was a gutty win," Rangers coach John Tortorella told reporters. "Especially in the third period when they were in our end quite a bit, but we were blocking shots and then Hank stood in there. It was a good win after a week of where there wasn't a lot of fire. They responded and they responded very well."
Boston outshot the Rangers 12-1 in the final period, and the Bruins attempted 34 shots in the final 20 minutes as they had Lundqvist and the Rangers defenders under siege. New York's skaters blocked 18 of those attempts and 29 in the game.
Brian Boyle led the Rangers with five blocked shots, while Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonaugh had four each.
"I think the first two periods, that is the way we have to play," Boyle said on MSG. "In the third Hank played out of his mind, but that is how to come together and play defense. Everyone was real excited, obviously -- that was a big win for us."
Added defenseman Marc Staal: "We made some big blocks, and Hank made some huge saves to preserve the win. We don't want to play a whole period like that, but we found a way to get two massive points."
Tuuka Rask, starting instead of Boston's Vezina Trophy candidate Tim Thomas, made 22 saves as the Bruins lost for the first time during this three-game homestand.
The Rangers have scored a total of three goals in the past three games, but Lundqvist has two 1-0 victories and a 2-1 shootout loss in that span. Lundqvist is now fourth in the League with a .924 save percentage and is also in the top five in wins (33) and goals against average (2.24), and has bolstered his chances of being a Vezina finalist along with Thomas.
"The guys just battled so hard all night. It was unbelievable," Lundqvist said on MSG. "It was great to see the way we bounced back from the other night. We definitely showed how we have to play.
"I was really fighting to see pucks. They have a lot of guys in front, a lot of big guys. They bumped into me all night. I tried not to get upset about it. Then the guys just blocked so many shots."
Stepan tallied the lone goal 6:39 into the first period. He won a faceoff to the right of Rask, and Vinny Prospal got the puck to the right point for a shot from defenseman Michael Sauer that Stepan deflected for his 20th goal of the season. He is the first rookie to reach 20 goals for the Rangers since Petr Prucha in 2005-06.
Boston coach Claude Julien was not happy with the officials because there was an apparent offsides call missed on the Rangers shortly before the offensive zone faceoff that led to the goal. Prospal also appeared to jump into the play early, which typically warrants the center being thrown out of the circle.
"I'll give [the officals] one mulligan, but not two," Julien told reporters.
Stepan did some extra work on faceoffs during practice Friday after winning only 2 of 13 in the previous game against Ottawa.
"In fact, he's been awful on faceoffs and he was probably our best faceoff guy today," Tortorella said. "I wasn't going to use him at the end because I still don't trust him enough as far as faceoffs at the end. ... But he wins a big faceoff. Vinny Prospal really wins it because it was really a tie and he bumps it back. That's what we're going to have to do if we're going to improve on our faceoffs."