NEW YORK – In their sixth game of the season, the Rangers delivered an unusual amount of firsts.
The first goals of the season for Carl Hagelin, Martin St. Louis, and Kevin Hayes, who got the first of his NHL career.
The first time in franchise history the team scored two goals in four seconds with neither one scored into an empty net.
The first time in his career Henrik Lundqvist shut out the San Jose Sharks, who lost in regulation for the first time this year.
It all added up to a 4-0 blanking at Madison Square Garden, as the Rangers (3-3-0) wrapped up their first homestand of the season, a four-game set during which they were 2-2-0.
The club struggled defensively during the first two games at the Garden this week, losing consecutive 6-3 decisions to the Maple Leafs and Islanders respectively. They calmed things against the woeful Hurricanes in a 2-1 win on Thursday before making a statement against one of the West’s best, who were coming off a game in New Jersey that started 22 hours before puckdrop on Sunday.
“We know they’re a long ways from home, long road trip – maybe we could catch them off guard,” said captain Ryan McDonagh, who skated just over 24 minutes in the win. “We didn’t get a goal [in the first period], but I think we definitely got some momentum. Guys started feeling good, and we built off that into the second.”
They sure did. Three goals in the second period followed, thanks in no small part to backup Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock (25 saves), who made poor plays with the puck on two of the first three goals he allowed.
“They were bad goals,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “I can’t protect [Stalock]. He knows that. They only needed one bad goal tonight, though. We didn’t give him any run support, so we lost this as a group, as a team.”
“There’s no doubt that we got a couple bounces from their goaltender tonight that permitted us to score timely goals,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Those two goals at the end of the second were difference-makers.”
With the team already ahead 1-0, Martin St. Louis jammed away at a puck under Stalock, eventually getting it to cross the line with 43.6 seconds remaining in the second. After review, the Rangers took the ensuing faceoff right down the ice, and Stalock whiffed on a half-hearted clearing attempt, allowing Rick Nash to push in his league-leading 7th of the season.
The two goals, officially scored four seconds apart, tied for the fastest goals in franchise history. From there, the team buckled down to get Lundqvist his 51st-career shutout, moving the franchise record-holder into a tie for 22nd all-time with Curtis Joseph, Rogie Vachon, Tomas Vokoun, and Dave Kerr.
“I think the big thing tonight was our team effort,” Lundqvist said after making 33 saves in the shutout. “It was probably our most complete game of the year. [The Sharks] played last night and they’ve been on the road for a while, so we wanted to play our physical, focused game. We made so many good decisions.”
“It was probably our most complete game, for sure, McDonagh said. “I like the way we played fast. It’s been something we’ve been saying here, and we finally did it in a consistent matter tonight.”
Nash is the first player in franchise history with goals in five of the first six games of the regular season. He is also one of only two Rangers with at least seven goals in the team’s first six games of the season, joining Don Murdoch, who had eight goals at the outset of the 1976-77 season.
The Rangers won a season-high 41 faceoffs, and had a season-best 66% faceoff win percentage.
Dan Girardi left the game early in the third period after blocking a shot. He suffered a laceration on his leg requiring stitches, and is day-to-day.
The Rangers shut out the Sharks for the second time in franchise history, and recorded their first-ever blanking of the Sharks at home.