RALEIGH, N.C. -- Good news and bad news for Henrik Lundqvist: Bad news is, there are no more games on this season's schedule against the Carolina Hurricanes. The good news is everything else about the goaltender's evening in the Tar Heel State on Tuesday night.
"We actually talked about it the other day: Some teams, the matchup just works for you for some reason," Lundqvist said. "It's hard to explain."
And it's hard to overstate how splendid Lundqvist was in Tuesday's game, turning away 43 of 44 shots and giving his team a chance to find its footing in the third period and seize hold of a 2-1 victory over the Hurricanes - giving Lundqvist career win No. 30 in just his 43rd game against Carolina.
In three starts against the Hurricanes this season, Lundqvist allowed four goals and put up a .964 save percentage, and on Tuesday improved to 21-4 against the Canes going back eight years. In this one, he stopped all 18 shots he saw in the third period, 11 of them coming in the final six minutes as the Hurricanes, who entered the game one point out of a playoff spot, turned up the desperation on their attack and the Rangers' defenders matched it as they held their lead.
"Organized chaos, let's put it that way," Lundqvist said of those final, frantic minutes.
"Accurate," said David Quinn.
Video: NYR@CAR: Lundqvist preserves lead with terrific saves
But the survival came at the end of a third-period surge from the Rangers, facing a team that had allowed just two goals in winning its last three games and playing their best period of the game in the final period of this four-game road swing. Connor Brickley scored his first goal as a Ranger in the second period, setting the table for Vlad Namestnikov to snap a 1-1 tie 6:10 into the third just as a Carolina penalty expired, and five different Rangers in front of Lundqvist blocked seven Hurricanes shots in the final frame to see home their second win in three games.
"Obviously you want to bounce back from the game we had (on Sunday), a tough loss against the Pens, and come here, a tough building, a division rival," Mika Zibanejad said of a Ranger team that has not lost back-to-back games in regulation since Jan. 8-10. "We kind of said that after the second going into the third: Just one good period and we'll be able to come out of here with two points. I didn't think it was our best period compared to the other games, but we did enough, we got that one goal, and Hankie shut it down."
Lundqvist's most sparkling stop of all came when he robbed Justin Williams at his right post with 1:40 left, playing for a shot from straightaway but then throwing out the goalpad and the blocker on Williams to leave the Carolina captain skating away stunned.
Video: NYR@CAR: Lundqvist makes pair of tough stops
"Had to improvise on that one," the goaltender said.
But perhaps his most important stop came just past the midpoint of the game, when he shut the door on a Sebastian Aho breakaway as the Hurricanes' leading scorer tried to sneak one through the five-hole. It came less than a minute after Brickley had snapped a long Carolina shutout streak and knotted the game at 1.
"He's a guy, he'll win you hockey games if he makes the saves he's supposed to, and then he mixes in three or four like he did tonight where he's not supposed to," said Marc Staal. "I think it was a big game for him, and it's nice to see him play that way."
Of the save on Aho and the one on Williams, Quinn said: "Those are two huge saves, and he made a lot of others. He certainly gave us a chance to dust ourselves off after two below-average periods and have a good third, I thought."
That third period sent the Rangers on their way home with two wins against two one-goal losses during their four-game road swing. They'll now play five of their next six games before their home fans at Madison Square Garden.
They were aware, though, that through the first two periods of this one it was evident which team was wrapping up a long road trip and which team had been home for the past week, with two days off leading up to this faceoff.
"They were all over us," Staal said. "They're a fast team that competes hard, forechecks hard - they do a lot of things that we like to do. They were a step ahead of us definitely in the first, and I feel like we got better as the game went on."
Still, it took until the game was half over for the scoreless tie to give way, when Jordan Martinook flipped his own rebound over Lundqvist 9:53 into the middle period.
Video: NYR@CAR: Brickley deflects rebound past McElhinney
The Rangers got an answer from their fourth line just 47 seconds later. Filip Chytil led a charge down the right wing with Brickley crashing the middle, and when Curtis McElhinney (24 saves) shrugged off Chytil's rising backhander, it caromed into Brickley chest and carried into the net. Referee Wes McCauley immediately waved off the goal, judging that Brickley had used him arm to guide in the puck, but video review reversed the call and the Rangers had evened the score.
The review didn't seem to faze the Rangers - "We thought it was going to be a goal, we saw it clearly," Quinn said - nor did it bother Brickley, who has grown accustomed to sitting tight. Brickley, who came to the Rangers in a trade with Nashville last month, had to wait overnight to get his first point as a Ranger, when an assist was added the morning after Friday's game in Buffalo. And he said he had seen this movie before in this very rink.
"I didn't want to jinx anything - my first NHL goal came in this building, and I actually scored before then, and it got called back," said Brickley, who scored for the Panthers in his third NHL game, back in October 2015. "So I was like, 'Not again.'"
It counted - snapping the Hurricanes' shutout streak at 148 minutes and 8 seconds - Lundqvist followed with the stop on Aho, and the Rangers saved their best hockey for the last period. In fact, they had another goal waved off 47 seconds into the third, with Mats Zuccarello jamming a puck home in a goalmouth scramble, but McCauley once again negating it and this time calling Chris Kreider for goaltender interference.
Video: NYR@CAR: Namestnikov buries rebound from the slot
And after the Rangers couldn't muster anything on a 42-second 5-on-3, Brock McGinn was just stepping out of the home penalty box to even up the manpower when Namestnikov hit the target after McElhinney had made saves on Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey.
"It's a tough building to play in, it's a tough team - they play a very fast-paced game," Zibanejad said. "It's a gutsy road win.
"We knew that it was going to be tough. But we got it done, and we can fly back happy."