Henrik Lundqvist (17-11-3), not overly tested, stood tall against the NHL leading Dallas Stars Tuesday night. He stopped 22 of 24 shots to backstop his New York Rangers to a 6-2 victory.
He bested Anti Niemi (16-6-4), who faltered by allowing six goals on 29 shots. Dallas has allowed six goals in back-to-back games and have now lost three straight games for the first time this season.
The Rangers looked like the better team and had most of the pressure through most of the game. Both teams fell short on the power play, neither capitalizing on three opportunities. Derek Stepan's short handed goal was the only impact special teams had all night. Rick Nash, playing in his 900th career game, collected three assists to celebrate the accomplishment.
Rangers Get On The Board Early
Derek Stepan opened the scoring under two minutes into the game. The Rangers' first shot was on a pass that bounced off Rick Nash's skate and onto the stick of a waiting Stepan who beat the goalie Niemi to jump ahead right away, 1-0. The Dallas Stars then took two back-to-back penalties within the first five minutes, starting the game off on the wrong foot. They did kill off both penalties and eventually getting their first shot on net with 8:19 left in the opening period. John Klingberg squeaked a puck under the arm of Lundqvist and across the line for his sixth of the season and first in 17 games. Jason Spezza brought the puck into the zone and hit a trailing Klingberg who wristed a shot that fooled "King Henrik."
Less than 20 seconds later, Keith Yandle erased all the momentum when he scored on a point shot that a screened Niemi couldn't track down. The puck sifted through a mess of people in front and missed everyone to put the Rangers up 2-1.
Dallas Pushed But Fell Short
Dallas tried to tie the game on a two on one rush with Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp. Seguin broke in on a partial break with Ryan McDonagh giving chase. Seguin held up and hit a trailing Sharp who couldn't beat Lundqvist keeping the Rangers in front. New York, applying a ton of pressure, forced Niemi to come up big with a pad stop on a cross crease bid by Mats Zuccarello. That's how the period would end, with the Rangers out in front.
Derrick Brassard broke into the attacking zone, trying to send a centering pass to the slot, it deflected off Stars defenseman Jason Demers and bounced past the goal line to put the Rangers up by two. The Rangers had two power play opportunities in the second and came up empty handed, and the Stars failed on their one attempt in the period.
New York Breaks The Game Open
The third would bring more offense. Derek Stepan would pump a shorthanded breakaway goal past Niemi and Victor Stalberg buried a rebound off a big shot from the point by Kevin Klein, breaking the game open giving the Rangers a 5-1 lead. The Stars hottest player as of late, Patrick Sharp, had the longest active point streak in the NHL entering play on Tuesday night with 12 points in nine games. He would add to that total on an assist on Antoine Roussel's seventh goal of the season off a Jason Spezza cross crease pass that Antoine made no mistake on to bring the Stars as close as they would get.
With the game growing less obtainable for the Stars, Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin traded passes on a give and go. Nichushkin finished the play with a goal. Upon review the play was reversed on an offside call from a coaches challenge. The very next play Jayson Megna and Rick Nash busted in on a two-on-one with Stars forward Cody Eakin defending. They snuck two passes through Eakin and Megna pulled the trigger to score, beating a defeated Anti Niemi.
- Rick Nash collected three assists.
- Derek Stepan tallied his seventh and eighth goal of the season.
- The Stars fall to 28-10-4 and with the Washington Capitals winning Tuesday, they now own the NHL lead.
- The Rangers jump to 22-14-4 to stay within the top three in the Metropolitan division.
Dallas Stars next game is on Thursday when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets.
New York gets three days off when they host the now NHL leading Washington Capitals on Saturday.