NEWARK – Henrik Lundqvist made history Thursday night. More importantly to the Rangers’ immediate plight, he stopped everything he faced from the Devils in overtime and in the shootout.
“I try to have the same mind-set in every shootout, just be patient and let them react,” Lundqvist said. “I just tried to focus and remind myself how important this situation is.”
Lundqvist made 35 saves, including six in overtime, as the Rangers beat the Devils, 4-3, in a shootout at Prudential Center to move within three points of the Bruins for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff position with eight games to play.
In doing so, he became the first goalie in NHL history with at least 30 victories in each of his first five seasons. Last year, he was the first goalie in league history to reach the milestone in each of his first four seasons.
“I haven’t really thought of it,” Lundqvist said. “Right now, I need over 30 wins, at least 35, to really have a chance at the playoffs.”
In the shootout, he turned aside Zach Parise, then stabbed out his glove to rob Patrik Elias before stopping Travis Zajac to clinch the crucial win.
“We could have run away with the game easy,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. “But their goalie was great.”
Even though Elias scored on a rising shot to give the Devils a 2-1 lead at 3:53 of the third period, Lundqvist kept him from what could have been a hat trick.
Lundqvist gloved Elias slap shot through traffic at 9:28 of the first period, then made a brilliant right pad save on Elias’ short-handed breakaway at 9:43 of the second period.
The shift before Jamie Langenbrunner gave the Devils a 3-2 lead with his slap shot from the right at 12:37 of the third period, Lundqvist stoned Elias on another breakaway chance.
“Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t,” said Elias, who along with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zajac, had six shots. “On [the short-handed chance], I came in from the left side there and I tried to move him with me to the right. He didn’t because he plays so deep so he still had his pad there. On the second one, I shot it through his arm and wide and, in the shoot out, I’ve had a few of those against him so he knew what I was looking for. I scored on him a couple on the glove side and he didn’t give me that tonight.”
Lundqvist made up for his last performance at the Rock, when he was removed after allowing five goals on 17 shots in a 6-3 loss on March 10.
He is now 17-4-5 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in 26 regular-season games facing the Devils’ Marty Brodeur.
“Hank was outstanding, which he is going to have to be if we’re going to climb the hill,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said.