NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — So outside of Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers didn’t look great.
But all that mattered to the goalie — and the team — is New York skated off with their first win.
Outplayed and outshot badly through two periods, the Rangers got elusive victory No. 1 because Lundqvist made 40 saves, and his teammates broke open a scoreless game with four goals in the third to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 on Tuesday night.
“Henrik gave us an opportunity and we found a way,” said coach John Tortorella, who admitted after an 0-1-2 start the win was more important than how the Rangers got it. “Absolutely. Just to feel good about yourself for a day or two. The guys are smart enough to know we’ve got things to work on.”
Lundqvist was the only Rangers player who earned style points, especially in the first two periods.
Instead, the usually stylish Swedish goalie got a funny looking hat — a cheap-looking felt fedora — that the team picked up during a season-opening trip to Europe. It will be awarded to the top player after each win.
“They call it our Broadway hat,” said a sweat-soaked Lundqvist, admitting the lid might smell soon. “I don’t mind. I want to wear it after every game.”
No one argued he deserved it after this one.
Lundqvist, who led the NHL last season with 11 shutouts, was the main reason the Rangers got into the win column as he earned the 36th blanking of his career. He had an answer for everything the Canucks threw at him, including eight chances for what was the NHL’s best power-play unit last season, and ranked seventh going into this game.
For a while it appeared as though Lundqvist might not be enough to lift the road-weary, injury-depleted Rangers, who were struggling to score.
But Mike Rupp started the barrage 2:22 into in the third, and the floodgates opened midway through the period. Ryan McDonagh and Brian Boyle scored 93 seconds apart midway through the final frame, and Marian Gaborik added the last goal after a brilliant rush and pass by McDonagh with 2:21 left as the Rangers won despite being outshot 40-19.
“Everything changed after the first goal,” Lundqvist said. “We built some confidence and they felt like they had to do more, and it opened up for us.”
The Rangers, who started the season with two losses after regulation in Sweden, were playing for just the second time in 10 days after losing to the Islanders on Saturday. New York was also without leading defenseman Marc Staal, who has been out all season because of the effects of a concussion, and managed only nine shots at Roberto Luongo through two periods.
But their 10th drive bounced off Luongo’s right pad and right to Rupp inside the left circle. The big winger, signed this summer, fired in his first goal with the Rangers.
“It felt good. I’ve been struggling to find my game,” Rupp said. “It’s a good stepping stone for myself, and the team can build off the third period.”
That was enough for Lundqvist, who pitched a 31-save shutout in New York’s only meeting with the Canucks last season. He was at his best shortly after Rupp scored. Lundqvist managed to keep the puck out during a wild scramble in the crease less than a minute later. He slid across to deny Keith Ballard on a rebound, and robbed Manny Malhotra and Kevin Bieksa before McDonagh doubled the lead, giving New York its first win at Vancouver since Oct. 11, 1997.
“It was intense,” Lundqvist said. “It s been tough not getting any wins the first few games, and we’ve been close. I kind of took that as motivation going into this game.”
New York only had five goals in three games before the outburst, adding pressure on Lundqvist, who said he had to resist trying to change things and doing too much on his own.
“Unbelievable,” McDonagh said of his goaltender. “He’s been the star of this team since the start of the season. “It’s great we finally got a win for him.”
Luongo finished with 16 saves for the Canucks (2-3-1), who came off a four-game road trip for a stint of five of six at home. The Rangers won’t play at home until Oct. 27 because of renovations at Madison Square Garden. By then they will have traveled more than 16,000 miles on their seven-game, season-opening road trip, including four in Western Canada.
The night started with an emotional tribute to Rick Rypien, who played his first six seasons in the Vancouver organization before signing with Winnipeg this summer. He took his own life in mid-August.
The Canucks then got a lift on the ice by the return of heart-and-soul center Ryan Kesler, who made his season debut after having hip surgery in July.
They just couldn’t beat Lundqvist.
“He’s one of the best in the game, and he played like it,” Kesler said.
Was Tuesday night the best Lundqvist performance you’ve ever seen? Sound off in the comments below…
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)