Though no longer in the dire straits in which they found themselves entering Halloween, the Rangers (9-9-2) can’t afford to waste gems by Henrik Lundqvist like they did Friday night in a 2-0 loss to the Blue Jackets, even with a goalie the caliber of Sergei Bobrovsky on the other side.
Points are at a premium in a Metropolitan Division that is tight from top to bottom and an Eastern Conference featuring a large group of teams without a ton of separation staring up at Tampa Bay.
Lundqvist has a .928 save percentage in his last four games. He had a 40-save regular-season game Friday for the 22nd time in his NHL career.
“I felt really good. It was a game I had to compete a lot,” Lundqvist said after Friday’s loss. “There was a lot of back and forth, especially in the second, a lot of odd-man rushes. I thought I was aggressive when I had to be aggressive.”
In his last seven games Lundqvist has a .920 save percentage with a 2.66 goals against average, a number highly impacted by the three goals allowed over a span of 4:07 early in the third period of Wednesday’s loss in Chicago in which his teammates were complicit.
In losing both games on the Chicago-Columbus road trip, the Rangers, who host the Senators on Sunday, dropped the special-teams battle they’d been on the right side of four times during their six-game win streak, drawing even on that front in the other two games of the streak.
In his last seven games, Henrik Lundqvist has a .920 save percentage with a 2.66 goals against average.
(Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
They had killed off 18 of 19 power plays heading into Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks but allowed one power-play goal in each of their two losses, finishing 6-for-8 on the kill in the pair of matches.
And their sizzling power play hit an expected regression, going 0-for-6 during the trip, although they didn’t help themselves with poor entries and possession.
SWITCHING IT UP: Alain Vigneault tried “shuffling the deck” in Friday’s third period, mixing up the top-three lines he had used since Oct. 31 against Vegas. Rick Nash took Pavel Buchnevich’s spot on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, while Jimmy Vesey shifted to play with Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello and Buchnevich was moved to Vesey’s spot with David Desharnais and J.T. Miller.
Desharnais saw just two shifts totaling 1:21 in the third period, sitting the final 9:40. Miller got shifts at center with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast in the third as Boo Nieves was limited to one 59-second shift in the third. Vesey, Desharnais and Miller all had 5-on-5 shot-attempts percentages of 23 percent or lower through two periods.
Buchnevich, whose 16 points are third-most on the Rangers, played four shifts for 3:32 in the third. Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk played 10:47 and 10:01 respectively in the third as the Rangers chased an equalizer.