VANCOUVER---Henrik Lundqvist celebrated a sensational shutout and the Rangers first win of the season not with champagne, but by donning a black felt fedora that made its way from overseas to Western Canada.
"It's the winning hat for this year, Richie (Brad Richards) thought I deserved it," said Lundqvist, who made 40 saves in a 4-0 victory to help the Rangers snap a three-game winless streak at Rogers Arena tonight. "Someone bought it in Europe. We call it the "Broadway hat"; someone's going to have to wear it after each win. I'm going to try to wear this hat after every game. That's going to be my goal."
The Rangers exploded for four goals in the final 20 minutes after surviving a scoreless two periods that the Canucks dominated. Lundqvist was unbeatable, stopping 28 Canucks shots, including five consecutive power plays in the first 40 minutes. The Rangers meanwhile, had managed just nine shots on goaltender Roberto Luongo. The skilled Canucks, who dominated the time of possession, threaded passes though the Rangers zone, but just misfired (on 15) or had their attempts blocked (16).
Finally, at 2:22 of the third period, Mike Rupp scored his first as a Blueshirt, blasting a rebound of a Michael Del Zotto shot from the left side just under the crossbar. That opened the gates.
"We know how it works," Lundqvist said after his 36th career shutout. "You can be outplayed for 50 minutes and then you get a chance, you score, everything changes when you score the first goal, you can build some confidence. That was my mindset, just keep it at zero."
After Lundqvist made several more stunning stops on two more Canucks power plays, Rupp finished a give-and-go, finding Ryan McDonagh in the slot, and the defenseman beat Luongo with a low wrister at 9:57. "We're at a point in the game where very easily this game could be getting out of hand," said Rupp. "We just had to get some shots on net. We came out with some authority in the third, now we've got to bring that for 60."
It was the second point of the season for Rupp, the former Devil forward who had scored just 49 goals in his career and was signed to a three-year deal in July. Brian Boyle put the game out of reach when his shot from the left circle at 11:30 beat Luongo on the stick side and McDonagh then stickhandled down the slot to the crease and slipped a pass to an open Marian Gaborik at the post at 17:39.
For the first three games of the season, Lundqvist had kept the Rangers (1-1-2) close in all of them. He had allowed just six goals in regulation. Another goal was an empty netter, and another was in overtime. "It's great that we finally got a win for him," said McDonagh. "We've been struggling to get some offense going, we know we've got talent. Once we got the one goal, we got our legs back, we were kind of rejuvenated."
With the victory in the first game of a four-game Westen swing, the Rangers avoided their worst start through four games since 2003-04 and didn’t go winless in three countries: Sweden (losses to the Kings and Ducks), the U.S. (Islanders) and Canada.
In the first period, last year’s Western Conference champion outshot the Rangers 13-5. Lundqvist stopped Alex Burrows twice (six times through the first 40 minutes), and made three consecutive saves on the second Vancouver power play when McDonagh went off for hooking Cody Hodgson at 17:25. The Canucks just missed connecting on a previous power play.
Before the game, Gaborik, whose goal was his third of the year, had an idea what to expect. The Canucks were getting All-Star Ryan Kesler, who scored 41 goals last season, back after late July hip surgery and would be riding an emotional high after a pre-game tribute to a former teammate, the late Rick Rypien, who died in August.
“The start is going to be huge, they always come out strong in this building,” said Gaborik. “So we need to bang some bodies, be physical, and play a quick game. We need to try and play five-on-five and play in their end, shoot as much as we can, and hopefully play with a lead.”
But almost none of that scenario happened. In fact, the Rangers continued to play 4-on-5 far too often, and the march to the penalty box continued. Through the second period, the Rangers had committed 24 penalties on the season. Once they had the lead though, they didn’t surrender it.
"We've got some things to work on, but we found a way," said coach John Tortorella, who said getting a win---no matter the format---was critical. "Just to feel good about yourself for a day or so."