SUNRISE, Fla. – Henrik Lundqvist decided to try something to get out of his slump. It worked, and a little bit of luck didn’t hurt, either.
Lundqvist made 40 saves for his third shutout of the season Friday night, leading the New York Rangers to a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“I changed my stance a little bit,” Lundqvist said. “I came back to how I used to play (with) a little bit higher stance, and my timing was better.”
Lundqvist, who gave up 17 goals while losing four of his last five decisions, recorded his 27th career shutout. His best stop probably came in the second period when he made a pad save on Mike Santorelli’s redirection from the front of the net.
“We needed him tonight,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “He played very well. We’ve gotta gut this out right here. I think we’re a tired team from the number of games and travel we’ve gone through. It certainly was important the way Hank played tonight.”
Rookie Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Prust scored for the Rangers, and Marc Staal had two assists.
The Rangers won despite being outshot 40-19. Florida outshot the Rangers 15-5 in the first, and 16-6 in the third.
“He was really sharp tonight,” Rangers centre Brian Boyle said about Lundqvist. “It’s a testament to him that mentally he battled through it. His skills are world class. He asked us for help and we didn’t bring it our first period, but after that we tried to clear them out. He was there the whole 60 minutes.”
Scott Clemmensen stopped 16 shots for Florida. The Panthers have lost three in a row for the first time this season.
The three losses came during a week-long homestand that also included games against Pittsburgh and Boston.
“Our effort’s there, for the most part, but we had a real opportunity this week coming home to really make a statement and we didn’t,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “So back to the drawing board.”
Trailing 3-0, Florida pulled its goalie with more than three minutes left.
The Panthers were 0-for-5 on the power play, and have failed to score in 33 straight chances.
“Until we start scoring, it’s a pretty valid point (to talk about),” Panthers forward Chris Higgins said. “We moved the puck around pretty well, just couldn’t find the back of the net. We had some opportunities there. We’ve just got to keep pushing. What are you going to do?”
Florida was shut out for the second time in eight days. The Panthers lost 4-0 at Boston on Nov. 18.
Florida almost took the lead in the first period when Shawn Matthias’ wrist shot off a loose puck went off the left post.
The Panthers thought they had scored in the third period when Higgins banged home a rebound after a flurry of shots from close range, but the goal was disallowed because of a hand pass.
“I had some luck and some help there at the end with the puck bouncing everywhere,” Lundqvist said. “But maybe I deserve a lucky one after a couple of tough bounces lately.”
Stepan extended his point streak to six games at 10:06 of the first period right after the Rangers had killed off a penalty. Stepan put a rebound past Clemmensen after he stopped a wrist shot from Sean Avery, who had just come out of the penalty box.
Callahan made it 2-0 at 5:24 of the third period with a beautiful tip of Erik Christensen’s shot on the power play. Callahan tipped the shot with his back to the net, and the deflection beat Clemmensen to the far side.
Prust closed out the scoring with a short-handed goal at 14:25. He beat Clemmensen on a 2-on-1 rush with a wrist shot low to the stick side.
It was Prust’s first goal of the season.
“It’s definitely nice, more than 20 games in, to get a goal,” Prust said. “Nice to get the monkey off my back.”
The big story, though, was Lundqvist.
“He’s a top-three goalie in the league, for sure,” said Higgins, who spent part of last season with the Rangers. “It’s not really a shock that he played that well. I wish he was off his game a little bit, though.”
NOTES: The Rangers have scored at least one power-play goal in four consecutive games. … The victory was the Rangers’ first in five games against teams from the Southeast Division. … Florida LW David Booth has now gone 10 games without a goal. … Rangers D Michal Roszival missed his ninth consecutive game because of a shoulder injury. … New York LW Derek Boogard sat out the game with a shoulder injury.