Lundqvist unbeatable as Rangers blank Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. - The King was back on his throne Friday night - with a big assist from his goaltending coach and some timely video sessions.
Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves, 15 in a lopsided first period in which the Rangers came out sluggish for the second time on this three-game southeastern swing, and carried the load like the old Lundqvist in a 3-0 win over the Panthers.
It was very much the old Lundqvist. Goaltending coach Benoit Allaire had showed him on video that he was a little too hunched over in the crease in some of his mediocre games of late, and he made the adjustment.
"I changed a little bit [Friday night] and it paid off," said Lundqvist, who recorded his second shutout of the season and 26th of his career. "My timing was so much better and I was on my knees a little more.
"Benny just showed me some things . . . I just get so focused sometimes, I just want to get at the puck so fast, I got a little too forward in my stance. I was up higher tonight. Benny just said the other day: 'You do less to do more.' "
The Rangers did very little in front of their goaltender from the outset Friday night, much as they did two nights earlier in Tampa. That game, though, was against some of the best forwards in the league, and the Lightning jumped all over the Rangers.
Friday night, the less talented but very game Panthers got the jump but could not finish. Stephen Weiss broke in off the left wing four minutes in and Lundqvist got a piece of the shot with his glove; it went from there, with Lundqvist turning aside three two-on-one breaks in the first 35 minutes, the last a quick flash with the left pad to stop Mike Santorelli shorthanded with the Rangers ahead 1-0.
"You could tell in that first period, he just didn't look like he was going to let one in," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He was that solid."
Tortorella juggled his forward lines to start the game, then juggled them again after what he called "a tired team" managed five shots in the first period.
Derek Stepan netted one of them, off a rebound from Sean Avery's shot, so it wasn't all lost. But Tortorella kept juggling lines to find some energy from his players.
With a little more room to operate against a pressing Panthers team that now has lost three straight, the Rangers expanded the lead. Ryan Callahan redirected Erik Christensen's pass from the high slot past Scott Clemmensen 5:24 into the third for a two-goal lead, and Brandon Prust got his first of the season shorthanded with 5:35 to play to seal it.
Panthers coach Peter DeBoer even took the unusual step of pulling Clemmensen with four minutes left while down three goals - his team's league-worst power play, which went 0-for-5 and is 0-for-32 in the last eight games, needed some work - but Lundqvist and his mates hung on for the shutout, a nice bonus after a night of hard work.
"My game has been up and down. I've had a couple really good games, a couple so-so ones," Lundqvist said. "This is a big relief for me. I want to help the team win. When we're not winning and not playing well, it bothers me a lot. This is my job, to help the team win games."