Henrik Lundqvist's 51st shutout would not have been possible without the extra effort of defenseman Matt Hunwick.
Goals from Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash four seconds apart in the closing minutes of the second period, and 33 saves by Lundqvist, sparked the New York Rangers to a 4-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
But the shutout, which extended Lundqvist's franchise record, also was contingent on the alert play of Hunwick at 6:18 of the first period, which prevented the Sharks from scoring the game's first goal and changed the course of the game.
The sequence began when Sharks defenseman Jason Demers' slap shot from the point was tipped by forward Matt Nieto. Lundqvist got a piece of the puck but it trickled behind him and headed toward the goal line. With the puck spinning on the goal line and millimeters from crossing it, Hunwick broke free from Sharks center Logan Couture and reached in with his stick to swat it away.
The play kept the Sharks off the scoreboard. Lundqvist did the rest to preserve the shutout and hand the Sharks their first regulation loss in six games.
"That's the biggest save of the game there," Lundqvist told Newsday. "It didn't let them get feeling good about their game and get the game going in their direction. That's so important, especially in a game where it's hard to create the big chances to try to get the first goal … I think it helped me and helped the whole team."
Hunwick, signed as a free agent and pressed into service in place of the injured Dan Boyle (broken hand), played 17:09 on the third pairing with John Moore. He is a minus-1 with five shots on goal and four penalty minutes in five games.