SAN JOSE, Calif. — David Quinn spent most of his pregame media briefing Tuesday discussing why he’d decided to scratch forward Pavel Buchnevich, and talking about how the team as a whole just hadn’t been playing well of late.
“We’ve got to find our way to get back to the things we were doing earlier in the year,’’ the first-year Rangers coach said as his team readied to face the San Jose Sharks. “You want the game to end and you think, ‘Well, we gave ourselves a chance to win.’ And when you’re not winning, your confidence can suffer. And I think that maybe has been the case a little bit, but — too bad. You’ve got to find a way to get it done.’’
Well, in the third game of their four-game trip to Chicago and California, Quinn got the jacked-up effort he was looking for, and two third-period goals by Chris Kreider and some remarkable goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist gave the Rangers a chance to win. In the end, it was Kevin Shattenkirk playing the shootout hero for the second time this season, beating Martin Jones on the final shot of the tiebreaker to give the Rangers a 4-3 shootout win.
The victory was the first on the trip, and the first on the road this season for the Rangers, who improved to 4-7-1 on the season. They finish the trip Thursday in Anaheim against the Ducks.
Kreider’s two third-period goals had sandwiched one by Timo Meier and had the Rangers looking to win in regulation time, but Tomas Hertl scored in the last second of regulation to tie the game, 3-3, and both teams had power plays in the five-minute, sudden-death overtime. Lundqvist made 31 saves in the game and three more in the shootout.
"It was a pretty intense game," Lundqvist said. "Emotionally, it was a challenge, too, I think. After what happened in L.A. [a last-minute, 4-3 loss to the Kings], to go through what we went through today —– I couldn’t believe it when they tied the game … I’m just happy with the way we responded. We got the win. We played a really good game — against a good team. The only thing that bothers me is the way they tied the game [in the last second]. It was a shock."
Quinn said: "It really would have been a sin [to lose]. We did a lot of good things, played hard … We’ve got to learn to close games out; we’ve got to understand situational hockey. But to come in here and get two points against a really good hockey team, I think, says an awful lot about our guys. The last three games, we think we’ve struggled a little bit — haven’t been playing the way we think we’re capable of. I thought we got back to things we were doing earlier in the year, and turned it up a notch."
With the Sharks beginning a four-game homestand after playing eight of their first 11 on the road, and with Joe Thornton returning to the Sharks lineup after missing nine games following knee surgery, San Jose took an early lead when Brent Burns fired a slap shot from the right point that went through the two-man screen of Filip Chytil and Neal Pionk and past Lundqvist to open the scoring at 3:22.
But the Rangers got that one back just 59 seconds later, when Mats Zuccarello fired a knuckleball from the upper right wing circle that somehow got past San Jose goalie Martin Jones.
The Sharks began to find their legs and generate more shots at the Rangers’ net and get more traffic in front of Lundqvist, who had to make several quick-reaction saves on deflected shots in the second period. Lundqvist also suffered a scare late in the period, when he was bumped by his own teammate, Cody McLeod, who had fallen to the ice and was sliding backward on his knees. McLeod hit Lundqvist in the mask, twisting the goalie’s neck backward. Lundqvist stayed down on his knees for a few moments and was tended to by trainer Jim Ramsay, who massaged the back of his left shoulder during the ensuing television timeout. Lundqvist stayed in the game, however, and made several more saves before the period ended.