Fans — and perhaps some teammates — knew a classic performance from Henrik Lundqvist was overdue. The veteran goaltender had been steadily raising his save percentage and lowering his goals-against- average, but he posted his first shutout of the season and 60th of his career when he was challenged Tuesday night.
“This was a game that I really felt involved from maybe after about 10 minutes into the game,” said Lundqvist, who made 35 saves, 26 of them in the final 40 minutes. “Even when we were three-up in the second, they kept coming. You never know. A game can change so much with the skill they have up front. There’s been a lot of games so far this year that have had low (numbers) of shots and sometimes it’s hard to come up with that extra save when you’re not that involved in the game. Tonight there were shots, chances and I felt like I was tested and it felt good.”
Said coach Alain Vigneault: “This was his best game of the year so far. We got that five-goal lead and Hank was able to find his rhythm. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he was going to find it.”
Coach Hitchcock presents his view
“We weren’t on a different map, we played somebody on the right map,” Hitchcock said. “They gave us a helluva lesson. They are playing great team hockey and exposed any weakness we had…They were in control. Real eye-opener for me, and it should be a real eye-opener for everybody in the league….when you’re in that sync, right now, you’re going to beat anybody.”
Stepan’s chat trick
Who’s the biggest yapper on the ice? Probably Derek Stepan, who has rookie Jimmy Vesey’s ear. “He’s probably tired of hearing me, but I’m going to do it until they tell me to stop,” Stepan said recently.
Vigneault said the chatter between Stepan and his linemates is “helping” Vesey, the Harvard free agent who scored his sixth goal last night in the win over St. Louis. The rookie has impressed his coach with his approach on and off the ice. “He’s quiet, but from the first time I had seen him (in Boston when the Blueshirts’ front office was recruiting him during the summer), he was confident, and the way he conducted himself was very business-like.”
“I wasn’t getting the bounces in the beginning, but now it’s all going our way. I’m just trying to observe them [Stepan and Rick Nash] every day, how hard they work at the rink. They always bring the right work ethic and attitude into the locker room. We are always communicating.”
With an assist, J.T. Miller leads the team with 10 points. Ryan McDonagh has nine, all assists, Chris Kreider has nine (3-6) and Mats Zuccarelo and Nash have 8 (both 5-3) . . . The Rangers are off Wednesday and host the Oilers on Thursday.