Last night's game took that sentiment another step forward. The Rangers' defense, decimated by injury and down to a scrappy group of six, were bent early and often against the Devils but didn't break. And Lundqvist made the key stops for the Rangers' in their 4-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center.
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With the game tied 1-1, Marian Gaborik goal at 5:35 in the third period -- his 18th of the season and 301st of his career -- put the Rangers ahead. The defense took care of the rest.
A desperation stand against a New Jersey power play late in the third period instead turned into a put-away, shorthanded goal by Carl Hagelin at 14:42. Gaborik followed with an empty-net goal at 19:56. The penalty kill and shorthander chalked up another superb performance by a defensive crew that includes a 25-year-old journeyman Anton Stralman and two call-ups from the AHL.
"We talk about it after each game now," said Lundqvist, who made 30 saves, including 11 in the third period, in another standout performance. "I'm impressed. They're doing a great job. We need it."
The Rangers' shorthanded defensive pairings earned the storyline here. Already without Marc Staal, Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger, the Rangers also learned Jeff Woywitka could not play with a foot injury. So Stralman, playing just his eighth game of the season, skated in the second pair with Michael Del Zotto. And two farm hands, Stu Bickel and Tim Erixon, filled out the third pair.
"It was a good, gritty win," coach John Tortorella said. "It wasn't solid right on through, we didn't do everything right at certain times, but we just stayed with it. I really like the grit of the game."
New Jersey, which had won four in a row, began the game with a furious offensive pace, attacking the Rangers' goal with 12 shots in the first period (compared to just four from the Rangers). Even without center Patrik Elias, the team's leading scorer who missed the game with an illness, the Devils kept pressure on the Rangers' young defense.
"First period they had a lot going on," Gaborik said. "They outshot us, we didn't generate enough."
New Jersey took the early lead after a goal by Travis Zajak at 15:51 in the first on a rebound after shots by Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus. But Artem Anisimov tied the score with his seventh goal at 17:28.
"We just played our game," Anisimov said. "We tried to keep momentum going on our side."
The Devils outshot the Rangers, but Anisimov's goal clearly shifted the momentum after a strong New Jersey first period. From there, Lundqvist said all he was focused on was stopping the Devils from adding that second goal.
He did. With a little help from a few of his new friends.
"We need it, it's a long year, we have guys coming out," Lundqvist said. "We need them to play relaxed and confident and they help this team a lot."