NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist fell to the ice and fought for oxygen after making a save with his throat early in the second period on Saturday. Lying on his stomach, Lundqvist started kicking out his legs, clutching at his neck as he struggled to breathe.
It was a scary scene at Madison Square Garden 3:02 into the second period, one that sent a scare through the Rangers and their fans, and brought back a difficult memory for New York coach Alain Vigneault. But it didn't last long, and the nightmarish scene gave way to a happy ending for Lundqvist, Vigneault, and the Rangers.
Despite feeling lightheaded and having headaches for the remainder of the game, which Lundqvist said were reactions to him losing his breath for a few minutes, the goalie stayed in the game and made 31 saves to help the Rangers end a two-game losing streak with a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Rick Nash tied Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the League lead in goals with his 29th, Dominic Moore scored a shorthanded goal, and Chris Kreider and Dan Boyle provided the insurance in the third period for New York.
The Rangers (28-15-4) jumped the Capitals and moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
"When I got hit, obviously it's painful and it was hard to breathe for a couple minutes," Lundqvist said. "I got very lightheaded and got worried the first minute or so, but then they told me just to breathe and slowly started to feel better. The first couple of minutes was more for me to see is it going to feel better after a while and slowly it did. I had some headaches the rest of the game and that was I guess normal because I couldn't breathe for a little bit."
Lundqvist's throat was exposed because Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh's stick came up and lifted his mask just as Brad Malone's shot from the right circle was coming up on Lundqvist.
Lundqvist said he lost sight of the puck as his mask came up, so he didn't know it was headed for his throat.
"It was just unfortunate timing by me," McDonagh said. "I'm trying to box a guy out, my stick kind of gets his mask up, it went off his throat there so I was a little nervous. It was great for us to see him get going again."
Vigneault said he had flashbacks to Jan. 29, 2000, when he was coaching the Montreal Canadiens and watched former Canadiens forward Trent McCleary block a shot from Chris Therien with his throat. The shot broke McCleary's larynx. He was rushed to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy, which ended his hockey career.
"After the game when I went in my whole staff was in a state of shock and nobody knew if he was going to survive," Vigneault said.
"When I saw Hank, when I saw the replay, I saw the puck hit him on the side [of the throat] so obviously he was moving some parts there in the net," Vigneault said. "Very happy that everything worked out."
Lundqvist's first save after the injury scare was a scissor kick left-pad save on a hard shot from Carolina forward Jeff Skinner at 4:43. Malone scored on a redirection from the slot 55 seconds later to cut the Rangers lead to 2-1. Carolina didn't get any closer.
Kreider and Boyle scored 21 seconds apart midway through the third period to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead with 9:23 remaining. It was Kreider's 11th goal and Boyle's fifth.
New York has won 15 of its past 16 games against Carolina, including all four this season.
"The first couple of minutes were tough to focus the same way because I just felt lightheaded," Lundqvist said. "It was good. We didn't get hurt there. Well they scored one goal, but after that I had a couple chances and then I thought we started playing a lot better, especially the last seven or eight minutes of the third period and then in the third we played really well. It was a good game for us. It was a battle the first half and then we turned it around and played really strong in the second half."
Carolina (17-26-6) ended the month with back-to-back losses, but January was still by far the Hurricanes best month of the season. Carolina finished January with a 7-3-2 record; it was 0-6-2 in October, 7-7-1 in November, and 3-10-1 in December.
The problem for the Hurricanes on Saturday was they didn't finish what they started.
Despite trailing 2-1, the Hurricanes were outshooting the Rangers 24-10 by the midway point of the second period. New York turned things around and not only outscored the Hurricanes 2-0 in the third period, but outshot them 27-8 over the final 28:09 of the game.
Peters said he thought his team stopped playing after Kreider scored.
"We lost 'D' zone coverage on the third one and then we quit playing from that point on until the horn went," Peters said. "We kind of left [goalie Cam Ward] to fend for himself. I'm a little disappointed in that myself. I thought we played better than that and needed to finish the game properly."
The Hurricanes play their next three games out West against the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks. Peters said the first key for Carolina in those games is to play a full 60 minutes.
"We can't give up freebies, we can't outscore our mistakes," Peters said. "We've gotta be harder to play against in the offensive zone. We've gotta hang onto the puck and make it harder on the opposition's goalie."
Carolina trailed 2-0 after the first period despite outshooting the Rangers 15-8 and holding a 25-12 advantage in total shot attempts.
Nash scored his first goal in four games at 6:30 of the first with a stick-side wrist shot from the top of the left circle. Nash intercepted defenseman Andrej Sekera's pass at the blue line and brought the puck to the top of the circle, where he had an uncontested shot on Ward (33 saves).
Moore gave New York a 2-0 lead at 10:57 of the first with an end-to-end, highlight-reel shorthanded goal. Moore blew past Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk with an inside move and opened Ward up before slipping a backhanded shot through his five-hole.
There was still 17 seconds remaining in Nash's penalty for tripping Carolina forward Nathan Gerbe.
"The first half of the game we might have been up 2-0, 2-1 after they scored, but that was mostly because of Hank's play," Vigneault said. "We can analyze the game and know even though we were up 2-0 after the first period they had been the better team, but I thought for the second half of the game we played well. We played a fast pace and took over the second half and were able to carry the play into the third and to the end of the game."