Coming off a disappointing outing four days earlier when he allowed four goals on eight shots in one period, Lundqvist made 28 saves and stopped all three Pittsburgh attempts in the shootout to lead the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Thursday night.
“Of course I was very disappointed after last game,” said Lundqvist, replaced before the second period of a 7-4 loss to the Islanders on Sunday. “I really wanted to come out there and play a good game and try to help the team get a win.”
After allowing a penalty-shot goal to Nils Ekman in the first period and Sidney Crosby’s power-play tally in the second, Lundqvist buckled down and held off the Penguins while his teammates mounted a late rally.
Blair Betts cut New York’s deficit to 2-1 with a short-handed goal at 8:43 of the third and Brendan Shanahan tied it with his NHL-best 21st of the season just 90 seconds later.
Lundqvist stopped a total of 11 shots in the third period and overtime to get the game into a shootout, where he has been perfect all season.
A glove save on Evgeni Malkin, a pad stop against Ekman, and a blocker save on Crosby’s drive made him 22-for-22 in shootout shots and ended New York’s four-game losing streak (0-1-3). The Rangers, who have gone to overtime in five of six games, hadn’t won since beating the Penguins in the extra session on Nov. 25.
“It was a tough game. They played smart,” Lundqvist said. “In the third, we came out really strong and put them under a lot of pressure.”
New York posted only 13 shots through two periods and none in overtime. But two of the nine in the third got by Marc-Andre Fleury and sent the Penguins to a fourth straight loss.
This one was extra painful for Crosby, who had his right ankle wrapped tightly before he limped out of Madison Square Garden. He didn’t look injured on his scintillating goal or his chance in the shootout.
“I was just trying to wait and see if (Lundqvist) would go down early before I shot it,” said Crosby, who said he felt OK. “He had some good patience and just waited there.”
While the Rangers looked sluggish through 40 minutes, they were able to turn things around in the third.
Betts made it 2-1 at 8:43 when he deflected Jason Ward’s fluttering shot with the shaft of his stick past Fleury, netting his first goal in 13 games.
Shanahan got the Rangers even 90 seconds later, taking Jaromir Jagr’s backhanded drop pass and firing a rising shot over Fleury’s glove to tie Atlanta’s Marian Hossa for the NHL lead in goals.
Fleury showed that his goalie stick is good for more than just stopping pucks when he combined with Mark Recchi to set up Crosby’s 12th goal of the season with 8:27 left in the second period.
The 19-year-old Crosby streaked up ice, eluded Betts and Ward, sliced between defencemen Darius Kasparaitis and Karel Rachunek and put a shot past Lundqvist for his third power-play goal of the season.
Recchi gave the puck to Fleury in the neutral zone and then watched his young teammate do the rest.
“I’ll take those,” said Recchi, who has seven goals and six assists the past 13 games.
Fleury, drafted No. 1 overall in 2003 – two years before Crosby went first – has points in consecutive starts after posting only one assist in his initial 91 NHL games.
Ekman gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with a penalty-shot goal after he was dragged down from behind by defenceman Aaron Ward, who was trying to make up for a turnover that led to the breakaway.
Ekman skated wide right on the attempt, made a short deke to the left, before shifting to his backhand for a shot inside the right post. He has six goals this season, none since a hat trick against Tampa Bay on Nov. 8.
It was a rare 1-on-1 goal allowed by Lundqvist, who stopped Penguins forward Jordan Staal on a penalty shot earlier this season.
Notes: Rangers C Michael Nylander left after the first period because his wife went into labour. … Staal, a rookie centre, returned to the lineup after a one-game benching. … Kasparaitis, who has struggled to get into the Rangers lineup as he recovers from off-season operations, played his seventh NHL game this season and his first since Oct. 30. He replaced mistake-prone D Sandis Ozolinsh. … New York was 1-for-6 on the power play. … Pittsburgh is 0-2 in shootouts.