As is so often the case in sensational goaltender duels, one or two bounces make the difference.
Detroit's Jimmy Howard, who made 47 saves, was the victim of the unfortunate hop that snapped a scoreless battle in the third period Thursday night.
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Henrik Lundqvist, who made 38 saves, had some puck luck and a quick reaction in the final minute to secure his third shutout in the Rangers' hard-fought, entertaining 1-0 win at Madison Square Garden.
"Both guys had their A-game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after Mats Zuccarello's pass attempt to Benoit Pouliot in front hit Red Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff and deflected in with 5:58 to play. "You could sort of feel as the game was moving forward that the team that was going to score was going to get one of those goals."
Zuccarello, who had only one shot on goal all night, readily agreed that his 12th goal -- and seventh third-period goal of the season -- was "a lucky bounce . . . but I'll take it because it was an important two points for us."
The win gave the Rangers (25-21-3) a 3-1 record on the homestand and lifted their home record to 11-11-3.
But the two points almost became one with 44.5 seconds left. With Howard pulled for an extra attacker, Gustav Nyquist's shot struck the right post, caromed off a kneeling Lundqvist's pad and slid slowly toward the net. But Lundqvist reached behind him with his glove and stopped the puck inches before it crossed the goal line.
"You kind of wait for a reaction when you hear it hit the post, but you don't get a reaction so you know it's somewhere behind you," Lundqvist said. "So you don't want to make too big of a move. I just turned around and it was right there . . . Maybe I earned it after a few tough bounces."
Missing eight regulars because of injury (including Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson) or personal leave, Detroit had a total of 139 points on the sideline, including four of its top five centers. It would have been appropriate to call them the Broken Wings.
But a club that featured a liberal dose of subs from the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins received a tremendous team effort and a better one from Howard, who entered 8-10-8 with a 2.97 GAA but looked like a Vezina finalist.
Each period provided a number of close calls.
The first period, which featured 33 shots on goal, ended with three rapid-fire saves from Lundqvist on Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan and Ben Smith. Howard was forced to turn away 18, and the Rangers even were shorthanded for four minutes, on penalties to Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.
Ryan McDonagh, who played a game-high 27:18, took seven shots and blocked three, including one against rookie Tomas Jurco on the first power play, covering the right side of the net with Lundqvist on the left.
In the second, Luke Glendening fired two wide-open shots that Lundqvist knocked away, and the Rangers failed on two power plays. The closest the Rangers came was when Howard flat-out robbed Carl Hagelin alone in front with his glove and when Ryan Callahan slid the puck through the crease with Howard out of position.
The shots were 35-25 in favor of the Rangers after 40 minutes. "We knew it wasn't going to be a pretty goal,'' McDonagh said, "and it wasn't."