Henrik Lundqvist earned his 200th NHL win in true Lundqvist fashion—through a shootout.
The goaltender secured his big win and a 4-3 victory for the Rangers by stopping two of the three shootout attempts made by the Los Angeles Kings last night at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, Lundqvist joins Ed Giacomin, Mike Richter, John Vanbiesbrouck and Gump Worsley, as the only goaltenders in Rangers’ history to win 200 games.
“It’s a great feeling to reach that, it’s a milestone for me,” Lundqvist said about the accomplishment. “I’m happy I’ve been able to be here for almost six years now. I just hope I get the opportunity to stay here and get another 200.”
In an intense, well-fought game, the Rangers and Kings had a back and forth battle through all three periods. The Kings’ opened the scoring with a power play goal; the team’s first in their last five games, when Justin Williams found Kings’ captain Dustin Brown with open ice. Brown beat Lundqvist on a high wrist shot to give the Kings the lead.
The first period ended in the Kings favor as they shutout the Rangers’ attack. But the Blueshirts’ offense came to life early in the second when Ryan Callahan was able to swat the puck past Jonathan Bernier after Derek Stepan threw the puck in front of the net.
The Rangers took the lead 6:10 into the third period on a counter-attack as Marian Gaborik scored on Bernier with a sharp wrist shot after he beat Drew Doughty on a 1-on-1.
Even though the Kings’ couldn’t pull off the win, Matt Greene let out a sigh of relief as he snapped his 72-game scoring drought. Greene, who hasn’t scored for the Kings’ since last season, tied the game at two with the help of Rangers’ Brian Boyle. When Greene took a shot from the right point the puck clipped Boyle’s stick on its way to the net and found its way past Lundqvist just 1:40 after Gaborik gave the Blueshirts the lead.
With 3:08 left in the game it seemed the Rangers would come away with the win after Brandon Dubinsky, who leads the team in goals, notched his 20th of the season to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead. But once again the lead would be short-lived as the Kings’ captain Brown would come through again only 47 seconds after Dubinsky scored.
Going into overtime, the Rangers had a huge advantage. Seconds before the final period ended, Kings’ Alexei Ponikarovsky was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Marc Staal. This gave the Rangers’ a four-minute 4-on-3 power play. The Blueshirts gave up this opportunity, however, when Dubinsky negated the power play after he was called for his third penalty of the game.
“We faced a ton of adversity tonight. We got down early, and then it went bang-bang-bang with blown leads in the third. But it was a great hockey game and a good test for us, because they are a really good hockey team,” said Erik Christensen. “The big thing is, I think, that we have a thick skin when something bad happens. And you saw that again tonight.”
Overtime ended in a stalemate and the deciding factor of the game came down to the battle of the goaltenders.
Christensen scored on the Rangers’ first attempt after he deked Kings’ goalie Jonathan Bernier; and Mats Zuccarello scored his third shootout winner on a slow-down decoy move. He is now 5-for-6 in shootout attempts.
After denying Michal Handzus’s shot in the first round it was up to Anze Kopitar to keep the Kings’ alive. Unfortunately for LA, Kopitar’s wrist shot was no match for Lundqvist as he knocked his it over the net to notch his 200th victory and hand the Kings’ only their second shootout loss this season.
“We had a lot of ups and downs throughout the game, but I thought we stayed pretty even-keeled and we never let the momentum spin in their advantage,” said Callahan. “We showed a lot of character and kept with it.”
For the Rangers, who are in a tight race to stay in playoff contention, the win gave them a much needed pair of points. Even with the ups and downs of last night’s game, Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella was focusing on the positive.
“I just think we’ve got some [guts] and I think we’ve been like that all year long, and I like that about our club,” Tortorella said. “I just hope this keeps transforming and we keep finding ways to win hockey games in the grind that is going to come up here. I really like the mental makeup of this team…I’m really happy we found a way to get the two points to start the weekend.”