CALGARY, Alberta — Henrik Lundqvist turned 36 on Friday, and his Rangers teammates gave him the best birthday present he could have asked for — a second straight win.
“It’s great,’’ Lundqvist said after the Rangers knocked off the fighting-for-their-playoff-lives Calgary Flames, 3-1, at the Saddledome. “One-and-0 as a 36-year-old, it’s great!’’
Of course, this win wasn’t handed to him. He did plenty of work to earn it, making 50 saves for the second straight game as the Rangers were outshot 51-27.
On Wednesday, he made 50 saves in a 6-5 overtime win over the Canucks in Vancouver, so he was asked if it was fun to make 100 saves in two games.
“When you win, yeah,’’ he said. “It comes down to winning. And you want to feel like you’re making a difference out there. When you’re not . . . that’s why I’m here. I want to make a difference, to try to help the team to win games.’’
Lundqvist did have some help from his teammates. Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Spooner scored for the Rangers and Spooner, who came to the team from Boston last Sunday in the Rick Nash trade, also had an assist, giving him seven points (1-6-7) in his first three games with the club.
“I thought my game tonight, I didn’t think it was that good,’’ Spooner said when asked about his continued hot start with his new team. “I had some plays I thought I could have done better on, but as a whole, you know, I just try to help out.’’
He helped get the Rangers off to another fast start when he won a left circle faceoff with a shot straight at Calgary goaltender Jon Gillies. Gillies made the save, but while the Flames appeared to be standing around marveling at how accurate and hard Spooner’s shot was, Hayes swooped in and jammed in the rebound at 4:07 of the first period for his career-high 18th goal of the season.
The Flames tied it on a rebound goal by Brett Kulak with 3:21 left in the period and outshot the Rangers 19-9 in the first 20 minutes.
In the opening minute of the second period, Lundqvist made a remarkable save on Mikael Backlund, diving over from the left post to the right and extending his stick arm to prevent the puck from entering what essentially was an otherwise empty net.
It was a save that everyone was talking about after the game, and the Rangers collected the loose puck, went down the ice and took the lead when Buchnevich’s backhand wraparound from behind the net banked in off Gillies’ skate 56 seconds into the period.
“Well, when he received the puck in the middle, he’s going to shoot it, and he did not; he passed it,’’ Lundqvist said of his save, which coach Alain Vig neault called “a game-changer.’’ “And I think he’s going to shoot it and he did not. He passed again. And I just realized if I’m going to reach over there, I’ve got to let go of my stick. It felt pretty good to make that save, and then we scored 30 seconds later. It’s a big difference to play with the lead.’’
The Rangers have won the first two games of this Western Canada swing, with the final game Saturday night in Edmonton against the rebuilding Oilers.
Lundqvist will get a well-deserved night off, with backup Alexandar Georgiev starting in goal.
The Rangers, who made clear their intention to rebuild weeks ago, improved to 29-30-6 for 64 points, which leaves them one point behind the sinking Islanders — who are most definitely not rebuilding — in the Eastern Conference standings.