He was, as Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh declared, “in the zone.”
J.T. Miller simply called him “unreal for us.”
Those accolades, which have been repeated so often over the last decade, seemed apropos again on Tuesday night.
Henrik Lundqvist made a season-high 43 saves and helped the Rangers kill four penalties, including a crucial four-minute power play late in the second period, as the Blueshirts won their third straight game, dispatching the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers offense? Well, that’s another story. They blocked more shots (23) than they had on Ducks goaltender John Gibson (20.)
“I don’t think it was our best game,” said Lundqvist, “But we probably worked as hard as ever and it paid off. Big plays at the right time helped us tonight.”
Leading 2-1 in the third period, Miller skated along the left boards on a rush and threaded a pass through some sticks across to Michael Grabner, who ripped a high shot past Gibson for a two-goal cushion at 3:45. Grabner then added an empty-netter — on another pass from Miller — for his team-leading 25th of the season.
It was the third straight game with two assists for Miller, who seemed to take extra pride in the shot-blocking.
“Everybody’s blocking shots. Our D-men eat pucks continuously,” said Miller, who had four blocks. “You see that and everyone goes to bench feeling good. I thought tonight was a good example where we sacrificed the body as a team.” McDonagh led the group with five blocks.
The Ducks buzzed out of the gate in the first, forcing Lundqvist to make four saves. But the Rangers made their first shot on Gibson count.
Pavel Buchnevich retrieved the puck behind the cage and backhanded a quick tape-to-tape pass to Oscar Lindberg at the right post for a 1-0 lead at 4:01. It was just the second goal of the season for Lindberg, who has played just 36 games after off-season hip surgery.
Lundqvist, who seemed poised and in position all night, stopped another two shots before Logan Shaw hooked down Grabner driving through the slot as Lindberg attempted a pass, but the first power play failed. McDonagh bobbled a pass and Ryan Getzlaf got behind him for a shorthanded break attempt, but the Rangers captain hustled back and disrupted the play.
The Ducks continued to get chances. They won 12 of 19 faceoffs and pressured the Rangers into poking and slapping at pucks to clear their defensive zone, and finished with 16 shots. The Blueshirts had just six.
Mats Zuccarello’s 11th goal, a one-timer that skittered through the slot from the right circle, provided a 2-0 advantage at 1:06 of the second, but Gibson prevented them from extending the lead.
With 2:23 gone, Gibson robbed Grabner on a breakaway with a glove save, then made a lunging blocker save on Jimmy Vesey on an odd-man rush.
After Brady Skjei whiffed on a pass behind net, Andrew Cogliano zipped past him and found Jakub Silfverberg in front with a backhanded pass. He beat Lundqvist stick-side at 6:14.
But Lundqvist protected the lead. Starting at 16:38 of the second, he and the penalty-killers held off a double-minor on Skjei for high-sticking Antoine Vermette. “Getting through that, I think that gave us a bit of momentum, four minutes from the second to the third, ” said McDonagh.
In one sequence, Lundqvist rejected a shot by Rickard Rakell to his right and then immediately batted away Hampus Lindholm’s blast from the point, and finished with 31 stops after 40 minutes.
Based on scouting reports “I didn’t expect this type of game,” said Lundqvist. “I went into the first period expecting a 20-shot shot game. The way we battled in front was the key for me and the team.”