VANCOUVER – It was fitting that Henrik Lundqvist’s teammates gave him a 1930s-era gangster’s hat after their first win of the season Tuesday night.
Lundqvist almost singlehandedly pulled off a major robbery, making 40 saves as the New York Rangers stole a 4-0 victory from the Vancouver Canucks.
“We call it the Broadway hat,” said Lundqvist. “Someone has to wear it after each win, and tonight it was my turn.”
Nobody was arguing. The rest of the Rangers willingly doffed their caps to Lundqvist.
The Canucks outshot the Rangers 40-19 while holding them to just nine shots in the first two periods, but they had no solution for Lundqvist’s stellar goaltending.
“He stood in there for us and gave us a great opportunity,” said New York’s normally taciturn coach John Tortorella, who was smiling for a change after a game. “We played a much better third period and found a way to win a hockey game.”
Mike Rupp, Ryan McDonagh and Brian Boyle–with their first goals of the season–and Marian Gaborik scored third-period goals for New York as the Rangers (1-1-2) posted their first win of the season. So far, they have played all of their games on the road while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.
“We’re happy about (Lundqvist’s) play, but you have to call it the way is,” Rupp said. “We got outplayed for most of the game. Without him, it was going to be a 7-0 game after two (periods).”
The Canucks (2-3-1) remained winless at home after two games at Rogers Arena. It was the Rangers’ first win in Vancouver since Oct. 11, 1997, when Wayne Gretzky registered his 50th career hat-trick in a 6-3 decision.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Canucks winger Alex Burrows, who led his club with a game-high six shots. “There’s still room for improvement, that’s for sure, but we were well on our way to doing good things. We didn’t really give them a whole lot offensively and we had some chances, but we’ve just got to find a way to put them away.”
Burrows said power plays were the difference. Vancouver failed to convert on eight power-play chances while the Rangers were denied on just three man-advantage opportunities.
Lundqvist, who has played all of New York’s games to date, said he used the club’s season-opening winless skid as motivation against the 2010-11 Stanley Cup finalists.
“It was intense,” Lundqvist said. “I felt like I tracked the puck really well. A lot of shots were screens and deflections.”
He praised his teammates for blocking shots, especially during Vancouver’s power plays. But he called for his club to stay out of the penalty box in future outings.
After a largely harmless 40 minutes, the Rangers scored in bunches in the third period. Rupp scored the only goal the Rangers needed early in the third as he one-time Michael Del Zotto’s rebound home from a sharp angle.
Seven and a half minutes after Rupp’s goal, McDonagh put New York ahead 2-0 as beat Luongo with a shot from the slot after taking a feed from Brandon Dubinsky. Boyle added to New York’s lead less than two minutes later as Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo misplayed a harmless looking shot.
“They’re not happy with my play–as well I am not,” Luongo said. “I guess they’re entitled to that. That’s all right I’m totally fine with it. I understand it’s up to me to pick up my game and make some saves.”
It was the only game of the season between the Rangers and Canucks, who rarely face each other due to the NHL’s scheduling quirks. Ryan Kesler made a seamless return to Vancouver’s lineup after missing the first five games of the regular season and all of the pre-season while recovering from off-season hip surgery.
“I liked the first 40 minutes of the game,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “I thought we played well, we did everything that we’re supposed to do–except that we didn’t finish.”
Notes: New York’s Marc Staal (concussion), Wojtek Wolski (groin) and Michael Sauer (shoulder) remained out with injuries.…With Kesler returning, Marco Sturm, Vancouver’s struggling top free-agent signing, was scratched.…Before the game, the Canucks played a video tribute to late forward Rick Rypien, who suffered from depression and ended his life in the summer. Earlier Tuesday, the Canucks announced a $50,000 donation through their charitable children’s foundation to help set up a website and, in conjunction with B.C. health agencies, curb mental illness among youth and young adults. The video included a segment on Rypien scoring his only career game-winning goal in the previous meeting between the Canucks and Rangers in Vancouver, on Nov. 3, 2009.…Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of Vigneault’s first NHL goal, which came against the Rangers while he was playing defence for the St. Louis Blues. “It was one of the prettiest goals you’ll ever see in your life,” quipped Vigneault. He managed only one other goal during his 42-game NHL playing career.…Four ex-Rangers–Chris Higgins, Manny Malhotra, Mikael Samuelsson and Dale Weise suited up against their former club for Vancouver. Higgins, a Long Island native, scored the Rangers’lone goal in their previous 2009 visit to Vancouver. He has played for three other teams, including the Canucks, since then.…The Canucks recorded their 365th consecutive sellout.