NEW YORK – The New York Rangers are always confident heading into a shootout, knowing Henrik Lundqvist gives them an excellent chance to win.
Nikolai Zherdev scored the only goal in a shootout and Lundqvist denied all three Ottawa Senators shooters in New York’s 2-1 victory Monday night.
The Rangers opted to shoot first and Zherdev beat Alex Auld between the pads. That left it up to Lundqvist to stop Jason Spezza, Jarko Ruutu and Antoine Vermette for his NHL-leading 12th win.
“I like the challenge of facing the best players on the other team,” Lundqvist said. “I get nervous because you play such a big part and you want to win so badly. You need to have a lot of patience and confidence. Right now, I have both.”
And it shows. Lundqvist has allowed only one goal on 12 shootout shots for a 3-1 record.
“You never take anything for granted, but it sure is good to know he is spot-on good when it comes to that part of the game,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
Fredrik Sjostrom scored for the Rangers in regulation as the Eastern Conference leaders stretched their winning streak to three.
“We were fired up and we were going to have this win, no matter what,” Sjostrom said. “Everybody excelled and played really hard tonight.”
Daniel Alfredsson had the lone goal for the Senators, who are winless in their past five games and have scored only five goals during that span.
“We had a chance to win 1-0, until they got a good rebound goal,” Alfredsson said. “We’re creating chances and we can’t look at the negatives now. There are positives. The efforts we’ve had the last two games have been good enough to win.”
The Senators had a 9-8 shot advantage in an evenly played, scoreless first period.
Thanks to a pair of power plays, the Senators dominated the first half of the second period, but could not break through against Lundqvist. Alfredsson had the best chance on the first power play, unloading a hard shot from the left dot. Dany Heatley had a solid chance at the side of the net on the second.
Ottawa had eight of the first nine shots in the period. The persistence paid off with 3:47 remaining when Alfredsson got his first goal in 11 games. The Senators captain picked up the puck in the left corner and wheeled into the slot to beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot.
“I kind of got loose,” Alfredsson said. “I got some free space and was able to walk in and find an opening.”
In the third, Lundqvist made a blocker stop on Vermette’s short-handed breakaway in the opening minutes to prevent Ottawa from expanding its lead.
The save was a turning point, and the Rangers evened the score on Sjostrom’s tally at 7:17. Marc Stall unloaded a hard shot from the point and Sjostrom knocked in the rebound for his second goal.
That set the stage for overtime.
New York’s Michal Rozsival had the only shot in overtime, a sharp-angle bid in the final seconds. The Senators outshot the Rangers 28-27 heading into the shootout.
Notes: Wade Redden faced his former club for the first time since leaving the Senators to sign with the Rangers in July. The defenceman played the first 11 years of his career with Ottawa. … The Rangers and Senators meet again Saturday afternoon in Ottawa. Both teams play a home game in the interim: the Senators host Montreal on Thursday, and the Rangers face Vancouver on Wednesday. … Ruutu returned for the Senators, having completed a two-game NHL suspension for elbowing Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre in the head. … Scott Gomez missed his third straight game for the Rangers with a bruised ankle. … Rozsival played in his 500th game. … Auld started for the 11th time in the last 12 games; Lundqvist made it 13 of 14.