For the second straight game Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers found themselves in a real goaltending duel Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, but unlike against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, this time the home team came out on top as Lundqvist made 38 saves in a 1-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings.
Mats Zuccarello snapped a scoreless tie with 5 minutes 58 seconds left to play in regulation to give Lundqvist and the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Zuccarello played give and go with Derick Brassard before attempting a pass from left wing for Benoit Pouliot which instead deflected off Detroit defenseman Brian Lashoff and past goaltender Jimmy Howard to the short side, as the Rangers finally broke through on their 45th shot of the night against Howard. The goal was Zuccarello's 12th of the season.
Howard and Lundqvist had traded great save for great save all game long, not dissimilar to the duel Lundqvist engaged in against Ben Bishop Tuesday night. However in that one the Rangers fell short by the score of 2-1 as Bishop stopped 33 of 34 Rangers shots.
Thursday night the Rangers were even more active in the offensive end, and Howard had to be even better than Bishop was the game before. Lundqvist, who played very well against the Lightning, was even sharper against the Red Wings, backstopping his third shutout of the season---the 48th regular season shutout of his NHL career.
Though playing without eight regulars in their lineup---including Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, and Jonathan Ericsson--the Red Wings were a formidable foe for the Rangers Thursday night. Their veterans and minor league call ups, alike, played with passion and grit, and matched the Rangers verve and intensity step for step throughout the game.
The Rangers registered 35 shots on goal through the first two periods, the most they had produced over 40 minutes of play since pumping 38 shots at Sabres goalie Ryan Miller back on Halloween night at The Garden. Somehow not one of those shots found its way past Howard, who was not only sharp, but quite often spectacular between the pipes for Detroit.
Howard denied the Rangers every way you can imagine--with his glove, his chest, his pads, and even with his mask when Pouliot drilled a hard slap shot right off his covered face in the opening period. The Rangers scoring chances came from all four lines, and some of the best were from defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman. However all were to no avail through the first two periods when the Rangers recorded 18 shots in the opening 20 minutes and another 17 in the middle twenty.
One of the Rangers best scoring chances came late in the middle period when Derek Stepan slipped a pass between his legs to Ryan Callahan in front, but the Blueshirts captain wristed his shot just wide of the net after challenged by Howard and a Red Wing defenseman.
At the other end of the ice Lundqvist was not as busy, but he was equally as effective stopping all 25 shots--including several Grade A opportunities for the Red Wings--over two periods of play. Highlights for Lundqvist included three rapid-fire saves in succession over the final minute of the first period, a pair of point-blank saves on Luke Glendening, and a sprawling stop on Drew Miller's wide-open shorthanded chance at 15:30 of the second.
Perhaps the best save of the game was not made by either goalie, but instead by McDonagh. During a scramble in front of the Rangers net after Lundqvist had already made a save and was pulled out of his net, McDonagh flung himself in front of the wide open cage to block perhaps Detroit's best scoring chance of the opening period.
The Rangers finished their four-game homestand with a solid 3-1-0 record, and next will face the Senators Saturday afternoon up in Ottawa. The Blueshirts then return to The Garden for another three straight on home ice, starting with a tilt against the Washington Capitals on Sunday night.