JIM: The Rangers No. 1 Star Thursday is a real no-brainer as Henrik Lundqvist matched Jimmy Howard--in the midst of a sensational night--save for save, and then some, in earning his third shutout of the season, the 48th regular season shutout of his career. It was a game of ebbs and flows, and while the Rangers had the better of things the majority of the time, Lundqvist had to be excellent when challenged because the Red Wings had more than their fair share of Grade A scoring chances. Lundqvist stopped them all, and finished with 38 saves, never wavering even when the game remained scoreless after 54 minutes of play. Though he had so many big-time stops, Lundqvist's diving save on Drew Miller's shorthanded rush during the second period was likely THE game-saver. Simply put, a great performance by a great goaltender who is back on top of his game.
Can't go against Mats Zuccarello being the Second Star of the Game for the Rangers since he was the only skater from either side to score a goal. Yes he was trying to pass the puck to Benoit Pouliot on what turned out to be the game's only goal, and the disc deflected off a defenseman and past Howard, but a goal is a goal, and Zuccarello put himself in position for something good to happen as he was leading the rush, looking to be a difference maker in a scoreless game. On a night the Rangers fired 48 shots on goal, Zuccarello's only credited shot was one originally intended to be a pass. No matter, it went in, and Zuccarello helped give the Rangers an extremely important 1-0 win.
A string of candidiates for the Rangers No. 3 Star Thursday, but I'm going with the horse on the back end, Ryan McDonagh. He not only made the biggest save of the game in the first period--throwing his body in the way of a Red Wings shot while blocking an open Rangers net after Lundqvist had made a save and was out of the play--but McDonagh also had seven shots on goal, including at least three real prime chances as he played extremely aggressively in the offensive zone. From slap shots to a terrific rush and wraparound, McDonagh was right in the mix in the offensive zone, while taking care of business over 27:18 worth of ice time back in his own end.
MATT: Took the words out of my mouth. Lundqvist as the first star was really the only option, as he played one of his best games of the season last night against the Red Wings in earning his third shutout of the season. Lundqvist was sharp from the start and stuffed every first, second and even third opportunity the Red Wings threw at him, including a string of three stops in the dying seconds of the first period. So few bounces have gone the Rangers' way this season, but Hank got one in the final minute of the third when a blast rang off the post and he gobbled up the puck inches away from the goal line. Lundqvist was superb from start to finish, and really seems to be returning to form at just the right time.
I never like to copy, but I have to here again with Mats Zuccarello, who appears to be becoming a star right before our eyes. Alain Vigneault said after the game that while Zuccarello's goal could be attributed to some puck luck, good players generate that luck for themselves, which is what Zuccarello did. And while the intended pass wound up in the back of Detroit's net, the moments leading up to the goal were far from lucky, as Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot each touched the puck on the rush that began deep in the Rangers' zone. Zuccarello's goal now ties him with Chris Kreider and Brad Richards for the team lead with 12.
My third star goes to Derick Brassard, for his role in Zuccarello's goal. As I wrote above, that goal was really the result of a line that is truly clicking on all cylinders and all situations, especially on the power play. All three started slow, but since coming together, Brassard has looked a lot more like the player we saw last spring following his arrival in New York. His pretty feed to Zuccarello allowed No. 36 to drive to the net for the tally. Aside from the assist, Brassard registered three shots, a hit and went 10-5 in the faceoff circle in 15:02 of ice time.