|Matt Cullen looks for a shot against Boston goaltender Joey MacDonald on Saturday. MacDonald made 35 saves in defeat for the Bruins and came within 100 seconds of a shutout.
|Renney Discusses the Victory over Boston ||WMP |
|Lundqvist on the Rangers' Recent Surge ||WMP |
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With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, all things are possible.
Lundqvist turned in a phenomenal 40-save performance on Saturday afternoon, and then stopped the final shooter in an overtime shootout as the Rangers edged Boston 2-1 to move within one point of sixth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
It was one of the biggest victories of the season for the Blueshirts, not just because they ran their winning streak to four games and tightened their grip on a playoff berth. It was a tremendous win because the Rangers had the necessary grit to beat a Boston team that was playing a nearly flawless game and a rookie Bruins goaltender who was enjoying the game of his life.
Good teams find ways to win like that, and the Rangers are certainly a very good team right now.
While Lundqvist was certainly the hero, keeping the Rangers in a 1-0 game for almost all of the last two periods, it was Thomas Pock and captain Jaromir Jagr who delivered the key goals.
Pock finally broke through Boston goalie Joey MacDonald with only 1:40 remaining in regulation time, tying the game at 1-1 to force overtime and the eventual shootout that ended when Jagr scored to set the stage for Lundqvist's game-ending save.
Three Rangers participated in the shootout, and two of them found the net. Michael Nylander, the first shooter, beat MacDonald with a hard, high backhander, and Boston's Marco Sturm followed by shooting high and wide of the net to give the Rangers a lead after the shootout's first round.
Matt Cullen, the Rangers' second shooter was stopped by MacDonald, and Patrice Bergeron scored on Lundqvist, as everything came down the shootout's final round.
Jagr made quick work of his Round 3 opportunity, notching the game-winner with a hard wrister between MacDonald's pads. That put all the pressure on Boston rookie Phil Kessel, who tried to beat Lundqvist with a deke to the glove side, but the Rangers goalie held his post and gave Kessel nothing to shoot at, nailing down the Rangers' fourth straight victory.
While Lundqvist came up big in the shootout, there was one save in the third-period that epitomized his remarkable afternoon. The near-miraculous stop came against former Rangers defenseman Aaron Ward with 7:01 left in the third period. Had Ward scored, Boston would have taken a 2-0 lead and likely held on for the win. Instead, Lundqvist turned the tables and gave his own team the opportunity to pick up another two points.
The save on Ward came shortly after Boston had won a faceoff in the Rangers zone. A hard shot by Jeremy Reich rebounded out to Ward, who fired a blast from the high slot through traffic. Lundqvist was already down on the ice, but he somehow managed to see the shot long enough to stick his left pad up and catch the puck before it entered the net.
That save turned the entire game around, and it wasn't long before Pock eventually made it a 1-1 game.
Pock's goal resulted from one of the few mistakes Boston made in the entire game. All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara was battling with Jagr in the right corner of his own zone, when he sent the puck out toward the slot and right onto Pock's stick. The Rangers defenseman, who had not scored in 33 games since Oct. 10, wasted no time unloading a drive into the left side of the net.
From that point on, it was almost assured that the Blueshirts would win the game. What had been Boston's day suddenly became theirs. As a result, the Rangers ended up sweeping all four games against the Bruins this season and extended their overall winning streak against Boston to eight games, dating back to the start of the 2005-06 season.
Since the Feb. 27 trade deadline, the Rangers have gone 9-1-3 to take over the inside track for one of the final three playoff berths in the East. Because Tampa Bay lost to Ottawa later in the day on Saturday, the Rangers can take sole possession of sixth place on Sunday afternoon by beating the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
Finishing the season in sixth would likely enable the Blueshirts to avoid both Buffalo and New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs and instead face a much more vulnerable Southeast Division champion.
Lundqvist and the Rangers defense continue to be the most impressive points in the current run of points from 12 of 13 games. Given their goaltender's performance on Saturday, the Rangers would be entering the playoffs with the most important piece of the puzzle – a hot netminder. Since mid-January, no NHL goaltender has been more effective than Lundqvist is virtually every statistical category. The Rangers as a team have allowed just 18 total goals in the last 13 games.
The other aspect of the Blueshirts game that really sparkled on Saturday was their penalty kill. They were a perfect 8-for-8 in killing off their own penalties, with Lundqvist the key to the shorthanded success. It was the fourth straight game that the Rangers have not allowed a power-play goal. They have allowed a total of only five since Feb. 27, killing penalties at a staggering 91.8 success rate over the 13-game stretch.
The biggest penalty-killing effort came after Petr Prucha took a tripping call with 1:31 remaining in overtime. While a recent overtime penalty had led to a loss in Atlanta, this time around the Blueshirts remained completely poised and managed to kill the penalty behind four Lundqvist saves.
While Lundqvist finished the regulation and overtime with 40 saves to earn No. 1 star honors, MacDonald was also impressive with 35 saves and a No. 2 star nod. For much of the third period, it looked like nothing would get past the Boston goaltender, particularly midway through the third, when he made tough saves on Jagr and Blair Betts (twice) in an eight-second stretch. Outshot 28-18 for the first two periods, the Rangers outshot Boston 14-8 over the final 20 minutes.
It was an impressive effort by MacDonald, the Boston backup who was blitzed by the Blueshirts for four second period goals just one week ago at Madison Square Garden.
Boston's Marc Savard had the game's only other goal, scored just before the second period's midway point. That period featured some of Lundqvist's best goaltending, including five big stops during the long Boston power play that resulted from a boarding major to Ryan Hollweg at the 13:55 mark.
Lundqvist made his best save of the long Boston power play with 4:52 left in the period, denying Petr Tenkrat with his right pad on a point-blank backhander. Tenkrat had taken a pass from the left side and cruised down the slot alone against Lundqvist before letting the shot go.
MacDonald also had to make a sensational against Rangers alternate captain Brendan Shanahan during the five-minute Bruins power play
Shanahan, killing the penalty with Martin Straka up front, kept the puck in the zone after MacDonald had stopped Straka and unloaded a hard wrister at 16:08. MacDonald regained his positioning just in time to knock the puck to safety with his right arm and preserve his team's lead. It was his second big stop on Shanahan during the period, following a redirection attempt during a Rangers power play at 3:54.
Although they didn't score on their shorthanded opportunity, there was no doubt the Rangers penalty killers were on top of their game at a time when Boston threatened to break things open in the second.
Savard had notched the game's first goal at 8:06 of the middle period, snapping a streak of eight straight games in which the Rangers had taken 1-0 leads.
The goal resulted from a rare turnover in the Rangers zone. Lundqvist had gone behind the net to play the puck and fired a clearing attempt out along the left boards. The puck hit Shean Donovan, who immediately snapped a shot that Lundqvist stopped. The puck rebounded out to Savard, just outside the slot to Lundqvist's right, and Savard rifled it home before Lundqvist could regain his balance from the initial save.
Lundqvist stopped 16 of 17 second-period shots. Three of his biggest saves came roughly six minutes into the period when he denied Chuck Kobasew, Marco Sturm, Andrew Alberts and Savard all within a span of 40 seconds.
In the opening period, Boston fired the game's first 10 shots before Jagr finally got the puck through to MacDonald during the Blueshirts' first power-play opportunity at the 9:32 mark.
MacDonald had to make eight saves over the next 10 minutes, as the Rangers outshot the Bruins 8-1 over the second half of the first period. His biggest stop came against Prucha during a power play at 9:49, after Prucha picked up a bad bounce off the glass directly in front of MacDonald and rifled a 25-foot one-timer that the Bruins goaltender managed to stop.
Only 29 seconds after the save on Prucha, MacDonald came up with another spectacular stop against Rangers defenseman Paul Mara, pinching into the right circle as the power play continued. The Rangers' power-play opportunity expired at the 10:58 mark, but the Blueshirts were soon back on the man-advantage again when Ward tripped Nylander deep in the Boston zone. The Bruins managed to kill off Ward's penalty by allowing only two shots on goal.
While Boston's penalty-killing was sharp, the Rangers' shorthanded performance was even more remarkable in the first period as well as the second, thanks in part to Lundqvist, who finished the first 20 minutes with 11 saves. During the Rangers' first penalty – a holding call against Shanahan at 5:37, Boston got a tremendous scoring chance when Chara fired a hard shot from the top of the slot that Lundqvist managed to stop and then protect the rebound from Sturm. Following the faceoff, he stopped a Strum shot and held it for another faceoff.
Boston enjoyed a 19-second 5-on-3 power play late in the Shanahan penalty, because Marek Malik had hooked the Bruins' Brandon Bochenski to stop a breakaway opportunity. The Rangers and Lundqvist stared down the two-man advantage, with Lundqvist making consecutive stops on Sturm, Savard and Chara.
Boston got two more power plays later in the period due to a roughing call against Betts at 15:12 and a holding call against Malik that carried into the second period but did not result in a single Boston shot. The Bruins had managed only one shot during the Betts penalty, as Lundqvist made a tremendous save on Kobasew, who was driving toward the crease.