Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lundqvist Blanks Caps Again



New York's 2-0 win over the Washington Capitals wasn't necessarily about Henrik Lundqvist, but the Rangers, when they are at their best, always are. That is why Lundqvist's third consecutive shutout against Washington was so important for New York on Tuesday. Must-win scenarios in October in the NHL are few and far between, but New York's tragic west coast trip has created an air of desperation around the squad already this season. They gave up 20 goals in a forgettable trio of games (and fell into last place after five games), and soon enough questions about the efficacy of new coach Alan Vigneault's defensive system have emerged.

At least for now, those questions are in remission.

Lundqvist stopped all 22 shots he faced, and the Swede has now stopped 84 consecutive shots against Washington, dating back to Mike Ribiero's overtime winner in game 5 of last year's series between the two teams.

The victory gives Lundqvist his 46th career shutout, and the Rangers, at least for now, can breathe a sigh of relief.

Lundqvist was crisp when he had to be, and his defense was stingy in front of him. The Rangers battled hard for pucks and position, eventually rallying behind John Moore's perfectly placed wrister at 12:05 of the second stanza. Less than two minutes later Ryan Callahan would finish the scoring with a goal from in close. The rest was about Lundqvist and the inspired Defense.

 "I felt like we came in here with a lot of confidence that we can beat them even though we've had a rough start," Lundqvist said.

The Rangers will cap off a nine-game, season-opening (doesn't quite seem far, does it?) road trip with three more games in the next ten days. The space between games should give them time to work out some ripples on practice ice. It's something they clearly need, in spite of tonight's win.

But there's no denying that Tuesday's win was a step in the right direction. Brad Richards, who had two assists, agrees. "Our [defensive] zone, our neutral zone, everything was a lot more in sync," Richards said on NHL.com. "You could tell we were on the same page a lot more tonight."

The Rangers improve to 2-4 on the season while Washington drops to 2-5. In the 8-team Metropolitan Division, only one team (Pittsburgh) is over .500.