Dan Girardi's goal right on time for Rangers
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It's all about timing.
Henrik Lundqvist (29 saves) earned his first shutout of the season and Dan Girardi scored his second goal of the season, at 3:11 of overtime, to provide a valuable two points in the playoff race as the Rangers beat the Islanders, 1-0, Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Girardi's only other goal came against the Islanders on Feb. 14.
"I just joined the rush and kind of bided my time," Girardi said. "I decided to drive the net, just pulled up and he [Derick Brassard] made a great pass. I was originally maybe looking back door, then I saw the far side was open and I just closed my eyes and shot it."
The high shot zipped past Evgeni Nabokov and the Rangers' bench poured onto the ice to mob the defenseman, who played a team-high 29:13.
"We wanted a regulation win, so it's not a three-point game," Girardi said, "but we're not going to complain about a win at this point. Any points are big ones for us."
The victory moved the Rangers (21-16-4, 46 points) two points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg. They trail the the seventh-place Islanders (21-16-5, 47) by a point. The Rangers have a game in hand.
"It felt like the playoffs for sure," said Lundqvist, who starred in his seventh straight start. It was the fifth shutout of his career against the Islanders. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of his last 13 games (8-3-2).
Lundqvist, who had eight shutouts in his Vezina Trophy-winning campaign last season, made 22 saves through two periods with at least two highlight-reel keepers: a stunning right pad stop on Kyle Okposo and an acrobatic glove stop on Matt Moulson's rebound in the first. He was aided by two posts in the second, one on a shot by Casey Cizikas and a sharp-angle try by Matt Carkner. The Isles also hit a crossbar at the start of the third period.
"To have a shutout, you need some puck luck and we had it tonight. Crossbars, a couple posts," Lundqvist said. "It's a game you could tell the first goal will mean a lot, and that's what kind of kept me focused. I don't know if it's a statement, but every game is big for us, so you prepare as if it's a playoff game."
The Rangers had only 20 shots on goal against Nabokov, but the last one counted. "It was a hard-checking game and a lot of blocked shots," said Girardi, who had two of the team's 21. "It wasn't our best defensive effort by far, but we battled hard and Henrik was there."
Michael Del Zotto, who had five blocked shots, also received an assist on the game-winner, which Brassard threaded through traffic to Girardi.
"I was screaming for someone to stay back," said Lundqvist. "If they miss the net there, it's a four-on-oh the other way. So it was a relief. It was a great play and a great shot . . . We needed this one."