Grabner’s hat trick helps Rangers beat Hurricanes
NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist bounced back from his worst start of the season Tuesday with one of his better performances of the season Friday.
After allowing a forgettable goal 56 seconds into the game, Lundqvist recovered to make 32 saves as the New York Rangers pulled away from the Carolina Hurricanes for a 5-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Michael Grabner had a hat trick, with two of his three goals going into an empty net in the final minutes, but it was Lundqvist who made the biggest difference in what was a one-goal game until the empty-net barrage and Paul Carey’s power-play goal with 39.3 seconds made the game appear lopsided.
Lundqvist, who allowed three goals on six shots in the Rangers’ 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, shook off the early goal by Justin Williams, a long slap shot from just inside the blue line. Lundqvist led the Rangers (14-10-2) to their fifth win in six games and said the shot was trickier than it appeared.
“Unless you’re a goalie and in that situation, it was probably one of the tougher shots I faced,” Lundqvist said. “You make the read after a few feet, and I was reading it going high and wide. Then it knuckles down and went low and inside the post. I was just too slow to react to it. Obviously, it looks stupid out there when you give it up. You can’t really tell it’s a knuckle puck.
“That’s what kind of calmed me down in that situation. Nothing you can do. Just move on. It was definitely a test after that goal.”
Lundqvist passed his biggest test in third period, when Jeff Skinner was awarded a penalty shot after he was slashed on a breakaway by defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Skinner was denied on the original shot and then again on the penalty shot by Lundqvist.
“Hank’s really stepping up in big moments as we continue on in this season,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. “It’s great to see. He thrives in those situations and he wants to step up and make a difference there and it’s great to see him do that.”
Williams’ goal was the only scoring in the first 20 minutes, but the Rangers got two goals in the first 1:52 of the second period. Scott Darling, who stopped 21 of 24 shots, allowed his own shaky goal to David Desharnais with the Rangers on the power play.
Darling attempted to the play a dump-in, but the puck slid off his stick and toward an open net, allowing Desharnais to tie the game with a gift goal.
“Well, it’s unfortunate,” said Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, whose team has lost four of five. “It had a little bit of English on it, so that’s unfortunate, but there’s lots of hockey to be played after that.”
“That was a huge mistake by me,” Darling said. “That got them back in the game and then they got the other one. Right now we don’t have a big margin for error so can’t make mistakes like that. That was the difference tonight.”
With the teams playing 4-on-4, Grabner scored his first goal of the game 1:15 later. He skated past Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk and tapped home a cross-ice feed from Shattenkirk to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
Peters decided to pull Darling for an extra skater with 2:27 remaining and a face-off deep in the Rangers zone, but it took just 14 seconds for Grabner to leak out for his first empty-net goal. He repeated the feat for the hat trick 1:01 later, giving the speedy winger six empty-net goals and 13 overall this season.
“I’m just trying to not cheat when I get the chance,” Grabner said.
NOTES: The Hurricanes open December by playing nine of 11 games on the road. ... Hurricanes D Klas Dahlbeck and RW Josh Jooris were scratches. ... Rangers C Mika Zibanejad (concussion) missed his second straight game, and the team has given no timetable for his return. ... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup after missing four games with an abdominal strain. He had an assist in 22:54 of ice time. ... G Henrik Lundqvist won his 418th game, tying him with Blackhawks G Tony Esposito for second-most all-time with one franchise.