It was only last Tuesday, the last time the Rangers were home, when Henrik Lundqvist was the recipient of some Bronx cheers from the Garden crowd, the fans’ way of expressing their dissatisfaction after some simple saves Lundqvist made on a night in which he allowed seven goals in two periods.
Six nights later at MSG and the roars of “Hen-reek! Hen-reek!” throughout the arena Monday evening showed the difference a week can make. Lundqvist deserved the fans’ adoration, finishing a superb performance with 36 saves in the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Kings.
“You know, I think especially in this town, you just have to take a step back sometimes,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t think you’re that bad, but you’re also not that good. It goes both ways. You have a couple of tough games and right away you have a lot of people asking questions, and the same thing when things are going well. You just try to stay cool and confident and keep doing the same things you’ve always been doing, because you know it’s gonna turn around for you.”
And now one of Lundqvist’s lowest moments is just a thing of the past. After allowing 16 goals on 76 shots in three games out of the bye week, Lundqvist has stopped 80 of 84 in backstopping the Blueshirts (31-16-1) to three straight wins. Fittingly against Los Angeles, Lundqvist looked every bit like the King.
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“He made some unreal saves,” J.T. Miller said. “With the crowd chanting his name like that, it felt good to hear that for us, and I’m sure it did for him. He made some really timely and big saves tonight.”
None was more timely than Lundqvist’s denial of Jeff Carter on a shorthanded breakaway with the heel of his glove with 1:31 left in the first period. It was a save that made the Garden fans erupt like they’ve done so many times in 11 seasons before this.
“Give me a timely save any time of the day,” Alain Vigneault said, so enthused about the Carter save he brought it up before a reporter even finished a question about Lundqvist.
Lundqvist made 14 saves in the first and 15 in the third, the final shot of the night getting by him with 1.6 seconds left.
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The Rangers had just nine shots through two periods and were out-attempted by the Kings (22-21-4) 80-35 for the game. Brandon Pirri scored off a turnover at 11:31 of the first, just the Rangers’ second shot of the game.
Matt Puempel, playing his first game since suffering a concussion on New Year’s Eve, moved up to play with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello in the middle of the game and scored at 13:28 of the second. Zuccarello scored to put the Rangers up 3-1 at 6:40 of the third, just his second goal in 31 games and his first non-empty-netter since Nov. 15.
Timely goals allowed through timely saves by their best player.
“If we’re gonna be great,” Stepan said, “we need Hank.”Send a Letter to the Editor