CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist has put together a two-game stretch unlike any since goaltenders began wearing facemasks full-time.
In fact, it’s possible that nobody in the NHL has ever worked this hard for back-to-back wins.
Henrik Lundqvist became the first goalie to stop 50 or more shots in consecutive victories since the NHL began tracking saves in 1955, lifting New York over the Calgary Flames 3-1 on Friday night.
Lundqvist tied a career high with 50 stops on his 36th birthday. He is only the third NHL goalie to post consecutive 50-save games, joining the Rangers’ Gump Worsley on Jan. 27 and 30, 1963, and Chicago’s Al Rollins on Oct. 9 and 15, 1955. Worsley lost both his 50-save games, and Rollins split his.
“You want to feel like you’re making a difference out there. That’s why I’m here,” Lundqvist said.
No Rangers goalie had made 50 saves in a win since Mike Richter in 1996 before Lundqvist beat Vancouver 6-5 in overtime Wednesday night.
“We kept them under 55 (shots) today, so we made his night a little lighter,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal joked.
Lundqvist’s best save left Mikael Backlund shaking his head in the opening minute of the second period. Lundqvist dropped his stick and acrobatically dived across the crease to get his blocker on what looked like an easy goal for the Flames’ center.
Not bad for a well-worn goalie in his 797th career game.
“I’m 1-0 as a 36-year-old,” quipped the veteran Swede, whose 430 career wins rank eighth on the career list.
Recently acquired center Ryan Spooner led New York with a goal and an assist. The 26-year-old has one goal and six assists in three games since he was part of a package traded to the Rangers from Boston for Rick Nash. Spooner is the first in franchise history with six assists in his first three games with the team, and also the first Ranger with multipoint efforts in his first three games with the club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s been great,” Spooner said. “I just really want to help out and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Kevin Hayes and Pavel Buchnevich also scored for New York. The Ranger will try for a Western Canada sweep Saturday night when they play at Edmonton.
Brett Kulak scored for Calgary, which has lost three straight and is falling back of the pack battling for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
“It’s a matter of scoring right now. We haven’t put the puck in the net in the past three games,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “When we get those chances, we’ve got to get some traffic and bear down.”
The Flames threatened Lundqvist with a power play 27 seconds into the game, but the veteran goaltender was up to the task.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead shortly after. On a faceoff in the Flames end, Spooner slapped the puck directly on net off the draw. Rookie goaltender Jon Gillies stopped the high shot, but he couldn’t control the rebound, and Hayes banged in the loose puck.
After Lundqvist robbed Backlund, the Rangers promptly raced on an odd-man rush with Buchnevich, after being stopped on his initial chance, eventually poking the puck over the line.
Spooner’s breakaway goal at 10:48 of the second made it 3-1, and that was more than enough for Lundqvist, who shut the door the rest of the way to improve to 25-21-5.
Gillies had 24 stops to fall to 2-2-0. The Flames are 3-6-1 since the loss of veteran goaltender Mike Smith to a lower-body injury, which has left the crease to rookies Gillies and David Rittich.
NOTES: Lundqvist is one of three goalies ever with 25 wins in 12 or more seasons, joining Martin Brodeur (15) and Patrick Roy (14). … Matthew Tkachuk had an assist, giving him 49 points, surpassing his total as a rookie. … Drew Shore made his debut for the Flames. He was acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline. … The Rangers improved to 18-0-0 when leading after two periods. … Micheal Ferland (upper body) and Kris Versteeg (hip) both practiced on Friday, but wore no-contact jerseys. They’ve missed three and 43 games, respectively.
Rangers: Play at Edmonton on Saturday night.
Flames: Open a three-game trip at Pittsburgh on Monday night.
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