Understandable Henrik Lundqvist Jerseys that the Rangers didn’t want to be overly critical on a night when they rode Henrik Lundqvist in a Wild West capper, stealing two points in a 2-1 shootout victory over their regular stooges, the Coyotes, on Saturday night at Gila River Arena.
But it was clear this was just one more win this season chalked up to Lundqvist’s brilliance and hardly the result of a collective effort. And when Lundqvist denied old buddy Derek Stepan on a slow-moving slap shot in the third round of the shootout, it wrapped up the Rangers’ ninth straight win over the ’Yotes, going back to March 2014.
“Hank was the best player on the ice,” coach Alain Vigneault said, “and we managed to get two points.”
Lundqvist stopped all 28 shots he saw over the final two periods and overtime, and finished with 38 saves in all. But more importantly, he allowed only one goal in the opening 20 minutes, when the Rangers (22-14-5) came out entirely flat and were almost run out of the building by the Coyotes (10-27-6). The only damage was a power-play goal from former Rangers prospect Anthony “The Duke” Duclair at 10:50 of the first, coming off an head-scratching delay-of-game call on Kevin Shattenkirk.
“I felt really good. With the way the first period went, I was warm,” Lundqvist said. “There was a lot of chances. They’re a quick team. I think they have a lot of young guys that are still learning, when to go and when to be smart. But you can see the skill and speed. And they work hard, they work really hard. And we got outworked in the first.”
The Rangers might have been happy about the way they responded in the second period, getting a goal from one of the few (two?) players on the ice that had it going. That was Jimmy Vesey, who stripped Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the corner then drove to the net and beat Antti Raanta from in close at 5:11 to make it 1-1. But Raanta, the terrific understudy behind Lundqvist for the previous two seasons, hardly had to deal with sustained pressure in facing only 25 shots — and just 14 in the first two periods.
But he was beat by Mika Zibanejad for the only tally of the skills competition, enabling the Rangers to slink out with the two points.
“There are a lot of games in the year, and sometimes, unfortunately, you don’t have it,” forward J.T. Miller said. “We weren’t ready to play in the first period. We got outworked. We really answered in the second, and found a way to get two points and win the game.”
It wasn’t too much of a question with what jerseys wholesale online plagued the Rangers early on, as it’s been the same problems for most of the games they have struggled during this up-and-down season. They mismanaged the puck, especially through the neutral zone, and that allowed Arizona to come the other way with speed. That type of attack forced Lundqvist to make difficult saves, and it create chaos in the Blueshirts’ end.
It also kept them from having the puck and creating offense for themselves, never forcing a team like Arizona into the same type of mistakes.
“We weren’t executing and we weren’t winning battles,” Miller said. “When you’re not doing that, you’re not going to have the puck. It’s very simple.”
It also should be clear that if this same performance is put on the ice for the team’s first-ever trip to Las Vegas on Sunday night in the second leg of this back-to-back against one of the best teams in the league, it’s very unlikely to be the same result. And that would take them into the five-day bye week with a very sour taste in their mouths.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about the team, we just got two points,” Miller said. “We just have to be better, and we have a game tomorrow. So good thing we don’t have too much time to think about this.”
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