SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Rangers scored early goals. The Sharks attacked. And Henrik Lundqvist was in Vezina Trophy form -- even though he was not selected for the NHL All-Star Game.
Chris Kreider had a goal and an assist in the first period as the Rangers went muscle-to-muscle with the Sharks, and Lundqvist's 30 saves carried the Blueshirts to a 3-1 triumph at SAP Center Saturday night.
Add it all up and the streaking Rangers (24-11-4) concluded a three-game California sweep, edging the Sharks after dusting the Ducks and Kings back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday. They defeated the three California teams on the road in the same season for the first time in franchise history.
"It's not an easy environment to play in," coach Alain Vigneault said, "but we were able to find ways to win. That's what hockey's all about."
It was the Rangers' fifth straight win and 13th in 14 games. Lundqvist earned his 11th victory in his last 12 starts and became the first goalie to reach 20 wins in each of his first 10 seasons. Still, he was not named an All-Star.
"I've been planning not to go, just spend time with family and recharge," Lundqvist said. "I feel like there's a lot of good goalies. Competition is tough."
With the Rangers leading 2-0, Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, falling backward into the net, robbed Mats Zuccarello at 4:24 of the third period. He grabbed Zuccarello's backhand about six inches off the ice with his glove, which appeared to be completely across the line. The ruling on the ice was no goal, and a lengthy review somehow supported the call.
"Puck's in the mitt, mitt's in the net," Vigneault said. "I'll let you use your common sense."
When Dom Moore went off for holding Joe Pavelski at 5:41, the Sharks cut the lead to 2-1. James Sheppard fired the puck off Lundqvist's left shoulder and Melker Karlsson sneaked along the goal line behind Marc Staal and shoveled the rebound in at the right post
Niemi was pulled with 90 seconds to play and Rick Nash's empty-netter -- his 26th goal of the season -- with a minute left ensured the win.
Martin St. Louis opened the scoring from the slot at 10:40, wristing in a pass from Kreider.
At 15:13, Kreider bulled into position at the right post and banged in a rebound of Dan Girardi's shot for his eighth goal of the season. It was Kreider's second multi-point game in the last five, and Derek Stepan was credited with his second assist. "We had a tough first five minutes. They came out hard," Derick Brassard said. "I think Kreider set the tone with his size and speed. He was a monster for us."
On the first shift of the game in his return after six seasons with the Sharks, Dan Boyle was bloodied by an elbow from James Sheppard and left for medical attention. He returned to the bench with 12:46 left in the period.
Said Boyle, who may have broken his nose: "I was bleeding pretty good. I don't know how many liters are in the body, but I lost a few. Then I took another one in the third and it was pouring down again. I was struggling to get through my shifts."
Boyle, who was honored with a video tribute during a timeout, raised his stick to thank the crowd, which included a sizable contingent of Rangers fans, who chanted "Hen-reek" after two stunning back-to-back stops in the second period.
Is it time for the Rangers and Lundqvist to reflect on what they've accomplished in the last month? "Not really,'' he said. "You look in the standings and there's no room for feeling good or comfortable. What you can say is we're really enjoying the time together right now, we're winning, we're relaxed and it really helps us in tight games."