BOSTON---They can;t shake the Sabres, but the Blueshirts are shaking up the East.
Supported by an incredible defensive effort, Henrik Lundqvist earned his league-leading 11th shutout of the season yesterday as the Rangers pulled into a tie for sixth-place in the East with Montreal following a nail-biting, 1-0 defeat of the Bruins.
The Canadiens lost 2-0, so each team has 87 points. The Sabres won are ar two points behind. The good news was that the ninth-place Hurricanes lost and the Rangers seems safely ahead of them.
Leading 1-0 on Derek Stepan’s 20th goal at 6:39 of the first period, the Rangers survived an all-out Bruins attack in the third period, blocking 18 shots and watching Lundqvist, who was blasted back into the net, aggravating his sore neck in an unpenalized collision in the second period, make 12 of his 26 saves. The Rangers had just one shot on Tuukka Rask in the final period of the matinee at TD Garden.
“I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure we were going to keep it 1-0 all the way,” said Lundqvist. “There’s no way I would be here with 11 shutouts without the way we’ve been playing as a team. Today, for the most part, we were right there. It got a little sweaty for me in the end but the first two periods were pretty calm. I like where we’re at as a team.”
Lundqvist meant emotionally and physically, but statistically, the Rangers (8-1-1) continue to surge as well. With six games to play, the Rangers are 41-30-5 (87 points)
“I thought we responded really well” after two home losses, a sluggish 1-0 defeat of Florida and a 2-1 OT loss to Ottawa, coach John Tortorella said. “I wish we could’ve gotten more forechecking in that third period, but when they start ramping it up, it’s hard to keep it going. We’re going to have to score some more goals. But we felt we really needed to try to re-identify ourselves as far as being a stiff, hard team. We did that with discipline. It was a gutty win. I think we had 12-15 shot blocks in the third and Hank stood in there. It’s a good win after a week when…there wasn’t a lot of fire.”
The Rangers are now 27-0-0 when leading after the second period and are off until a showdown with the Sabres on Wednesday in Buffalo.
“We don’t want to play a third period like that, “ said Marc Staal, who logged 28:35 along with partner Dan Girardi, who had four hits and four blocks in 26:24. “But we have been confident in our end zone all year long. We know how to play there, and obviously Henrik’s a huge part of that. So we sealed down a win.”
In the second period, as the Bruins (41-23-10) became more physical, Patrice Bergeron drove to the net on a shorthanded rush and plowed into Lundqvist, who was knocked backward into the cage and crawled out on his knees. It was a rough week for Lundqvist. He was dazed when hit square in the mask by a Staal slapper in practice on Thursday.
“It’s still really tight and sore,” said Lundqvist, who is 6-0-1 in the last seven and has played 20 straight. “It put me back to where I was a week ago, (when he was steamrolled by Montreal’s Benoit Pouliot). “It’s nothing I can’t deal with, I’ll just have to keep doing treatments and turn my body more than my head.”
Right now, it’s the Rangers who are turning heads.
The Rangers' 23 wins away from Madison Sqaure Garden is their most since the 1993-94 season.
"We know we've played some pretty good teams," said Brian Boyle, who blocked five shots and delivered four hits in 18:14 yesterday. "We know how to defend and we know we can be successful when we play our style. We've got a lot of confidence. Especially after a game like Ottawa (a 2-1 shootout loss), when we came back and played our game tonight. We were a little more physical tonight. We knew they were going to come hard. Playing well in the road can only help us in the playoffs."