Breakdown is not just a lyric to a Bob Seger song. It also defined the Rangers evening.
Luckily for them, Henrik Lundqvist was in goal.
Lundqvist stole two points in the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout win over the Maple Leafs Wednesday night at the Garden.
“We we did [have breakdowns]. Henrik was there as he’s been all year,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “I think, he in himself, wanted to make sure we got that second point in the shootout and he did a great job.”
The reigning Vezina winner made 23 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped all three Toronto shooters in the skills competition.
“Tonight, I felt better,” Lundqvist said. “I was making better decisions and I was reading the plays better. I thought I felt better and I thought I played better tonight.”
The Rangers improved to 20-16-4 this season. They are in a three-way tie with the Senators and Islanders with 44 points.
“We played a really strong game and I’m happy we got the two points,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a time we have to be desperate and I think that helped us a lot tonight.”
Ottawa would be the No. 6 seed if the playoffs began today. The Islanders are in seventh and the Rangers are in eighth. Ottawa has a game in hand on the Islanders and Rangers, who will meet Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Senators have two fewer regulation and overtime losses than the Rangers and Islanders. The Islanders have one more regulation and overtime—non-shootout—win than do the Rangers.
“It’s a huge second point for us,” head coach John Tortorella said. “That’s a big, big win for us. To get those two points is really important for us at this time of year.”
Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal in shootout. Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh each finished with a goal and an assist.
McDonagh’s goal gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The nominal left-side defenseman was on the opposite side when he jumped into the play and corralled Derick Brassard’s wall pass. McDonagh made an inside-out move on Nazem Kadri before cutting toward the middle and whipping a shot past a screened James Reimer (26 saves).
“I always see it in Ryan,” Tortorella said when asked if he thought McDonagh made a concerted effort to be a difference-maker. Paired with Dan Girardi, McDonagh received 26:37 of ice time. Girardi skated 34 shifts spanning 28:52.
“He’s always trying to make a difference. Quite honestly, I gave him crap about that move earlier in the game. He does it again and scores a goal. So much for coaching,” Tortorella joked. “Ryan McDonagh is always going to try and make plays no matter what’s left in his tank. [He] and [Girardi] played well tonight and played a number of minutes.”
Phil Kessel scored two goals for Toronto. Kessel’s first goal opened the scoring 102 seconds into the second period and his second goal tied the game at 2-2.
Kessel’s second goal also ended a shotless streak of 24:33. The Leafs finished with 25 shots on goal. However, they had only 14 spanning the final two periods and overtime.
The Rangers took away the middle of the ice away from the Leafs for much of the game. Toronto generated its chances due to Rangers turnovers and bad pinches.
“We played much better defensively,” Tortorella said. “I know they concentrated on it. I’m happy they grinded away and found a way. I’m happy they found a way to get two points.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.