Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

Henrik Lundqvist reaches another milestone as Rangers top Panthers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save during a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on March 7, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. Credit: Getty Images / Mike Ehrmann

SUNRISE, Fla. — By 4:06 of the second period on Tuesday, when Kevin Hayes took a pass off a turnover, skated in alone against Panthers goalie James Reimer and deposited a backhander, the Rangers had scored three goals.

In nine of the last 10 games, they managed two goals or fewer.

Call it an unusual offensive burst.

But the Rangers still needed their backbone, Henrik Lundqvist.

When the horn sounded on the 5-2 victory, their second straight in this back-to-back set in Florida, Lundqvist left the ice with 43 saves and his 30th win, passing Grant Fuhr for sole possession of 10th place on NHL’s all-time wins list. He also passed Martin Brodeur for most wins in his first 12 seasons.

“I’m proud, I’m very proud,” Lundqvist said. “I work really hard and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. You believe in yourself and believe in your team, that’s what I’ve been doing for 12 years.

“Of course, the big goal is to win [the Cup], but at the same time, you’ve got to enjoy the ride every season. Every trip, every game is something special.”

The Panthers pulled Reto Berra, who had relieved starter James Reimer, with 5:15 left in regulation and trailing 4-1. Brandon Pirri went to the box for an unnecessary interference penalty, and Aaron Ekblad cut the lead in half with plenty of time, more than three minutes left.

With 1:45 left, however, Pavel Buchnevich’s empty-netter doused any chance of a comeback for the Panthers, who remain in the wild-card playoff hunt.

The Blueshirts, who continually found gaps in the Panthers’ mid-ice play, springing multiple players for breakaways and finding passing lanes in the offensive zone, followed up their 1-0 overtime win on Monday in Tampa to stretch their NHL-best road record to 24-8.

The team’s two call-ups from Hartford on Sunday — defenseman Steven Kampfer and Tanner Glass — collected points in the first period as the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead. Kampfer’s right-point shot was deflected by Chris Kreider between Reimer’s glove and the right post at 9:25, for his first point as a Ranger.

J.T. Miller then sliced his way through the mid-ice and several Panthers, cut behind the net and found Oscar Lindberg, who backhanded a shot toward the net. Reimer stopped it, but Glass, who was tripped to his knees, scrambled up and slammed in the rebound at the 13-minute mark. It was his first goal since March 21, 2016 against Florida at Madison Square Garden, and he added an assist in the second period for only the sixth multi-point game of his career and first as a Blueshirt.

After Hayes’ first goal in 11 games, Thomas Vanek picked up a loose puck and fired under Lundqvist at 11:20 of the second. But closing the gap to two goals didn’t last long. Nick Holden strolled into the middle untouched from the right point for a slap shot with Glass screening and it was 4-1, prompting coach Tom Rowe to pull Reimer, who allowed four goals on 19 shots, for Berra.

None of the scoring should diminish Lundqvist’s evening, in which he made numerous key stops, especially in the second when he stopped 15 of 16 attempts and 20 of 21 in the third period, when the Rangers appeared to slow down in the second game of the back-to-back.

New York Sports