Rangers beat Red Wings on Zuccarello’s OT goal
NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist has found his game and it could not have come at a better time for the New York Rangers.
Despite being outshot 41-31 by the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night, the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden, their seventh straight victory at home.
Mats Zuccarello’s goal 37 seconds into the extra period would not have been possible without Lundqvist’s heroics in regulation; the goaltender stopped 13 of 14 chances in the third period and all 17 he faced in the first period as the Rangers (12-9-2) sputtered during the first 20 minutes.
In his past four starts, Lundqvist has made 132 saves on 136 shots to raise his save percentage this season to .918, which is as close as he’s been to his career numbers since the season began.
“I’m trying to be on my toes right now,” said Lundqvist, who was making his 11th straight start. “I feel the last three to four weeks, I am playing the way I want to play. I’m aggressive but still patient. Physically, I feel great. People talk to me about starting a lot of games, but physically you never get tired — it’s mentally. Right now, I’m in a nice flow where I don’t overthink things, so I feel rested.”
“I think now we’re playing better in front of him,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “But tonight, there’s no doubt that he was a difference maker in a lot of situations.”
Lundqvist’s best save while the game was scoreless came against Dylan Larkin in the first period. Larkin got behind the Rangers defense for a breakaway but had his shot turned aside by Lundqvist, who also benefited from the goal post on that shot and another in the second period from defenseman Mike Green.
The only puck to get past Lundqvist was a one-time blast by Tomas Tatar early in the third period. It was a perfect shot with heavy traffic in front of the net that gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 4:05 of the third period.
Jimmy Howard came out on the short end of the goaltending duel, as he allowed just one goal in regulation to Chris Kreider off a rebound six minutes after Tatar scored. Otherwise, Howard, who made a sparkling save on Kevin Shattenkirk in the second period, was just as brilliant.
“Both goalies were obviously great,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said, “but I thought we did lots of good stuff we can certainly build on.”
The Red Wings (10-9-4) have lost three in a row but the start from Howard was encouraging, as he was pulled in his previous start Wednesday after allowing four goals in less than two periods in what was a rare off-night for him this season.
“I just wanted to play well for the boys,” Howard said. “I didn’t feel like I had my A-game in the last couple games, and they deserve better out of me.”
The Rangers were thoroughly outplayed in the first period but Lundqvist held his team in the game, something that had become a regular sight at MSG before this season. But after a 2-6-2 start, the Rangers are 9-3-0 in their past 12 games, so perhaps it was fitting that the Rangers continued their surge on home ice by faltering early and doing just enough to win after Lundqvist stood on his head.
“We had a little talk in the locker room related to getting going,” said Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, who assisted on Zuccarello’s overtime winner, about the poor first period. “This was a big two points for us, for sure. I don’t know exactly what it was, maybe coming off Thanksgiving, but it’s not an excuse.
“A game like this can just get away from you,” Lundqvist said. “It’s frustrating to not get rewarded but we finally did and we came up big in overtime.”
NOTES: Red Wings D Trevor Daley left the game midway through the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Daley lost his balance and fell into Rangers C Paul Carey in the neutral zone and wasn’t moving his right arm as he left the ice. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Daley will get an MRI on Saturday. ... Red Wings scratches included LW David Booth, RW Martin Frk and RW Luke Witkowski, who is serving a 10-game suspension. ... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh (oblique) missed his second straight game. He will be re-evaluated Sunday. ... Rangers C David Desharnais was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.