If there ever was a game that is proof that elite goaltenders mean you can contend every single night in the NHL -- even if you've been outplayed for long stretches -- it was Tuesday's tilt between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. For two periods, the Rangers were blitzed by the Vancouver attack. But with Henrik Lundqvist in net, on this night, all New York needed was one goal for its first win of the season. Instead, the Rangers wound up getting four -- all in the third period -- behind Lundqvist's absolutely sensational performance in a 4-0 victory.
The Swedish netminder recorded the 36th shutout of his career, setting aside 40 shots in the process. Out of those 40 shots, at least half of them were of the high-quality variety. This was no easy night: for the first two periods the Rangers were outshot 28-9. The Blueshirts had about two good scoring opportunities. They also took five penalties up to that point, and six in a row. But Lundqvist was as good -- if not better -- as he's ever been, making some stupefying saves on a number of chances that seemed like easy Canucks' goals.
Heading into the third period, the game felt like it would play out with a 1-0 Canucks win. But the Rangers got on the board 2:22 in after Mike Rupp fired home the goal off a rebound after Michael Del Zotto sent a shot at Roberto Luongo.
Ryan McDonagh was No. 2 to Lundqvist's No. 1 for Game MVP nod, as he played a sensational game on defense and on offense, earning 24:30 in ice time (second to Dan Girardi's 28:53, who also played another ho-hum shutdown game on defense). McDonagh put home a slick goal off of a give-and-go with Brandon Dubinsky to give the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead. But the Rangers weren't done, as Brian Boyle roofed home a tally less than two minutes later via a nice cross-ice pass from Ruslan Fedotenko. Marian Gaborik added more fuel to the fire with his third goal of the season -- only after McDonagh flew into the zone with the puck and made a nifty move at the crease and tapped it over to an open Gaborik. In his 44th NHL game, McDonagh looked like a star. Calm. Cool. More pro-active on offense. And decisive with the puck.
It goes without saying that the Rangers robbed this game from the Canucks. Sure, New York had 10 shots to Vancouver's 12 in the third. But they were outshot 40-19 in the game. And even more dispiriting was that they were shorthanded another eight times. Brilliant goaltending was the difference, but it is not a very promising recipe for success.
Either way, the Rangers got that first win of the season under their belt and have to be feeling very good about the way they stuck with it -- and exploded in the third period.