It was a milestone night for the Rangers Friday in Winnipeg as Carl Hagelin recorded the first Hat Trick of his NHL career and Henrik Lundqvist earned his 301st victory, tying Mike Richter for the all-time franchise record, as the Rangers picked up a critical two points in the standings with a 4-2 victory over the Jets.
Hagelin had a pair of two-goal games previously this season--and five total in his career--prior to Friday's first-ever three-goal game. He scored one goal in each of the three periods against the Jets, while teammate Kevin Klein chipped in with a pair of assists, his first multiple-point game as a Ranger.
"It feels good, I never had one before, not even in college," Hagelin said of his Hat Trick. "Any time you can help the team win a game, esepcially scoring three goals, it's pretty special."
Lundqvist, who earned his 300th career victory in last Sunday's 3-0 win over the Red Wings, surrendered two goals on the first five shots he faced on Friday, before settling in and finishing with 30 saves. He will look to pass Richter and become the Rangers all-time winningest goaltender when New York returns home from this 1-2-0 road trip Sunday afternoon to host the San Jose Sharks.
"It's a huge honor to be up there with him because he has meant so much to this organization and it's kind of surreal to see yourself up there with him," Lundqvist said of tying Richter's record. "I'm just extremely proud; and it means that I've been here a while and been lucky enough to play with a lot of great players who helped me get here."
For his part, Richter told BlueshirtsUnited.com in an exclusive interview on Friday afternoon that Lundqvist is deserving of this Rangers record, emphasizing that through tremendous hard work and dedication "Henrik has not backed into his success".
"He is the perfect combination of talent and ability to apply himself," Richter said of Lundqvist. "You can't be a top, top player without the talent, while also having the drive to put in the hard work, the focus, and the determination to be great. I think we all love to see great talent, but we also love to see great talent pushed to its highest degree; and that's what you see with Henrik."
With the Rangers leading 3-2 in the third period, Hagelin netted the back-breaking goal--and finished off his Hat Trick--by beating former Ranger goalie Al Montoya from left wing off the rush 8:50 into the final period of play.
Moments after putting his team at a disadvantage late in the second period of a tie 2-2 hockey game by taking a hooking penalty at 17:41, Marty St. Louis thanked his teammates for bailing him out with a simply gorgeous assist on Hagelin's go-ahead goal with just 7.8 seconds remaining in the period, giving the visitors a crucial 3-2 lead entering the final period of play.
St. Louis burst out of the penalty box and chased down Klein's long clear back behind the Jets net, then sent a quick no-look pass right to a hustling Hagelin in the slot, and Hagelin buried a backhand shot past Montoya--who had relieved starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec to start the second period--to give New York its second lead of the night. The assist was St. Louis' second point in six games as a Ranger; while the goal was Hagelin's 14th of the season and second of the game.
"We did a great job killing a lot of penalties there, and I was going to go for a change, but then I saw Marty get out of the box, and I know he's pretty skilled down low so I just tried to skate towards the net and he made a great pass underneath the goalie's stick and I was able to put it in," explained Hagelin. "That was a big goal for us."
Hagelin also scored the first goal of the game just 75 seconds into play, deflecting the puck past Pavelec after Benoit Pouliot had redirected Klein's point shot. Brad Richards won the offensive-zone faceoff back to Klein--after a questionable icing call went against Winnipeg seconds before--and Klein quickly sent a shot on goal with both Pouliot and Hagelin crashing the Winnipeg net.
The early road lead was short-lived for the Rangers as Dustin Byfuglien netted his 17th goal from out in front of Lundqvist at 2:33 of the first period and then Andrew Ladd--playing in his 600th NHL game--zipped a left-wing shot past Lundqvist less than a minute later, at the 3:26 mark.
Moments later former Ranger Olli Jokinen redirected a shot past Lundqvist, but the puck caught iron, and the Rangers deficit remained one. The deficit was wiped out at 11:28 of the second when Chris Kreider collected a long pass from Derek Stepan, flew up left wing, and snapped a wicked shot from the left circle past Pavelec for his 17th goal, tying the score at two apiece.
The two-goal first period equaled New York's total output previously on this road trip where a 3-1 loss Tuesday in Carolina was followed by a 2-1 defeat in Minnesota on Thursday.
"You can't come back from a road trip like this empty-handed," stated St. Louis, who now has two assists in six games as a Ranger. "Those were two big points. Now we just need to build off this."
Head coach Alain Vigneault promised some "subtle changes" to the Rangers line combinations prior to the game, and he followed through on his promise. St. Louis was taken off Richards' line, and he skated with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. Richards centered Hagelin and Pouliot. Kreider reunited with Stepan and Rick Nash after a one-game separation; and the fourth line of Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Daniel Carcillo remained intact.