While nothing is awarded in February, the muscle memory of a 3-0 win over the Bruins Tuesday night could serve the Rangers well if the Original Six rivals meet this spring.
Henrik Lundqvist made 42 saves to record his NHL-leading seventh shutout. He is now second on the Rangers’ all-time list with 42. Lundqvist trails just Hall of Famer Ed Giacomin, who has 49.
Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who increased their Eastern Conference-leading point total to 79.
“It wasn’t our prettiest game, but at the end of the day it’s two points against a good team,” Ryan Callahan said. “For us, it’s good, but we have to continue to improve.”
Much like the Bruins were in their Cup run last spring, the truth about the Rangers is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But their most indispensible player is their goaltender.
Lundqvist is authoring a season that could see him win the Hart and Vezina trophies. Should he earn both awards, the second period last night could be key, as Lundqvist turned away all 14 Boston shots. He made a handful of deflection saves and was at his most spectacular when he stood firm against in-close attempts by Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara.
“I just went down and covered the ice,” Lundqvist said. “I thought I had it. Then I turned around and saw the puck.”
He also benefitted from some good fortune as a shot off the stick of Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was lodged in the mesh outside of the goal. The majority of the sellout crowd reacted to seeing the mesh shake and believed the Bruins scored. A brief review showed Seidenberg’s shot was wide and the goal was disallowed.
“There were times [I] had luck. You need it in a game like this,” Lundqvist said. “You need the bounces.”
The Rangers led 2-0 after the first period on the strength of Callahan’s power play marker 10:09 into the game and Ryan McDonagh’s unassisted even strength goal at 19:48. Callahan’s goal was his sixth in the Rangers’ last four games — a stretch in which the Rangers are 4-0-0.
“It’s really big,” Callahan said of the Rangers’ start. “For us to get that quick one on the [power play] and score another one late in the period, that’s really important, especially on the road.”
Anisimov’s deciding goal came at 2:53 of the third on an end-to-end rush with Michael Del Zotto. Anisimov angled his body in such a way that Tim Thomas (17 saves) and Seidenberg thought he would attempt a cross-crease pass to Del Zotto.
Instead, the third-year Russian center snapped the puck past Thomas’ stick for his 100th NHL point.
“Artie’s goal is a huge goal. It puts [us up] three goals [so] where they score one, it’s still a two-goal cushion,” Callahan said. “That’s a really big goal for us.”
Impressively, the Rangers kept their poise against an opponent that was attempting to force them to commit retaliatory penalties. Bruins agitator Brad Marchand knocked down Brad Richards in the offensive zone and cross-checked the Rangers center, face first, into the ice in the first period.
“They were probably frustrated,” Brian Boyle said. “They started getting frustrated.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.