Head coach Alain Vigneault stood in the fifth-floor press conference room Thursday morning detailing why the Red Wings have been a Stanley Cup playoff fixture the last 22 seasons, emphasizing puck possession as one of the key components to Detroit’s success.
Hours later, his team played a strong puck possession game and were rewarded for it when a Mats Zuccarello pass ended up behind Jimmy Howard.
It gave the Rangers a 1-0 win over the Red Wings in one of the more entertaining games of the season.
“It was a lucky bounce,” Zuccarello said after his 12th goal of the season. “I’ll take it because it was an important two points for us.”
With the win, the Rangers (25-21-3) jumped to sixth in the East with 53 points. The win also continued their month-long trend of earning points as the Rangers now have 11 points in eight games this month.
“We’ve been talking about traction and with the record we have we knew we had to get some games [consecutively] where we get the points,” Anton Stralman said.
The Rangers have seven games remaining this month and only one, Saturday in Ottawa, is outside of New York.
“We just believe in our system and we play a really strong team game,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “It’s been paying off lately in big games for us.”
So, too, has the franchise bedrock, who was a little bit better than Howard Thursday night. Lundqvist made 38 saves to record his third shutout of the season, the 48th of his career and his first against Detroit.
Lundqvist is one away from tying Ed Giacomin for the most regular season shutouts in franchise history. The shutout was also the Rangers’ first against Detroit since Nov. 27, 1976, and the franchise’s first blanking of Detroit at the Garden since Nov. 16, 1975.
“[Lundqvist] stood on his head,” Ryan Callahan said.
Even though the Rangers had more shots on goal (48-38) and more shot attempts (71-48), the Red Wings generated shots off the rush and with their puck movement.
Lundqvist’s most important saves came midway through the second period when he stopped two Luke Glendening shots from in close.
“I went back to basics and tried to really play my game,” Lundqvist said.
While Lundqvist was keeping the Red Wings at bay, his counterpart was doing the same to the Rangers. Howard finished with 47 saves, many of the highlight-reel variety, including two goalmouth stops on Carl Hagelin in the second.
“Howard played unbelievable,” Stralman said.
With the goaltenders matching each other save for save, the game was deadlocked until Zuccarello flung a centering pass for Benoit Pouliot through Howard and into the net with 5:58 left in regulation to send the Rangers to their fourth win in five games.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.