Henrik Lundqvist's standout play keeps Rangers in the game
Indoors or outdoors, the Rangers would not be where they are without Henrik Lundqvist.
In three of the last seven games before last night, the Rangers had scored just one goal. A 2-1 loss to Tampa, a 1-0 win over Detroit and a 2-1 loss to St. Louis.
And last night, in the bone-chilling air at Yankee Stadium, Lundqvist held up his end in a 2-1 win over the Islanders, making 30 saves and chalking up his second consecutive victory outdoors in the Bronx.
"Another amazing night," Lundqvist said. "I thought we played really smart; you have to respect their skill. It came down to the wire. I had a little concern about the cold, but it was not an issue. I felt a lot more calm [than in Sunday's 7-3 win over the Devils here]. To start, we didn't give up many odd-man rushes. It felt like we built on each period. I was hoping for two wins, hoping for two sold-out games, and that's what we had."
Lundqvist, whose record against the Islanders improved to 28-12-5, kept the Rangers in the game, especially in the second period, when the Islanders made a strong push.
He stopped the first 24 shots he faced, but then couldn't get to the left post in time when the puck slid from circle to circle and Brock Nelson, from the right, fired a shot between his pads with 1:37 left. But 40 seconds later, Benoit Pouliot flipped in a rebound of Derick Brassard's shot that bounced off the chest of Evgeni Nabokov to end the second period tied at 1, and that gave the Rangers a lift going into the dressing room.
Of all people, it was Daniel Carcillo who made the difference. He buried a rebound at 4:36 of the third period for his second goal as a Ranger since arriving in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. His first came against one of his former clubs, the Flyers, on Jan. 12.
That left it in the hands of Lundqvist, who entered with six wins in his last eight starts and an 18-18-3 record, a 2.54 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He blanked the Devils in the second and third periods on Sunday.
Coach Alain Vigneault figured that if any Ranger would have an advantage from the outdoors experience, it would be Lundqvist, who also was on the winning side in the 3-2 victory over the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia.
"It's tough for the goalies with the lighting situation," Pouliot said. "He made some key saves and won us the game."
Lundqvist also was a factor on the 3-for-3 penalty kill. The Rangers had allowed a power-play goal in each of the last four games, but they pressured the Islanders whenever the puck was bouncing.
The Rangers, who have won two of four games against the Islanders this season, are not finished with John Tavares & Co. this season. They play them again tomorrow night at MSG.
But that ends the series at Yankee Stadium. The Rangers won both games and are 29-23-3, for 61 points. In the spirit of the scene, you could make that 61 -- not with an asterisk, but an exclamation point.