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Milestone night: King Henrik backstops Rangers to shootout win over Devils

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NEW YORK (AP) Henrik Lundqvist came up big when the New York Rangers needed him and got a key milestone win.

Kevin Hayes scored the deciding goal in the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots through overtime and three more in the tiebreaker to help the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Sunday night.

Lundqvist stopped Damon Severson in the fourth round of the shootout to secure the Rangers’ sixth win in seven games and second against the Devils at home in eight days. It also gave Lundqvist his 389th career win, tying him with Dominik Hasek for the most by a European-born goaltender.

“He was an inspiration to me growing up,” Lundqvist said about the feat. “He was the first guy I saw play paddle down. I grew up watching him, so this special for sure.”

Lundqvist has been stellar since serving as the backup to Antti Raanta, who started four straight games from Dec. 8-13. In three games since, Lundqvist is 3-0-0 with a 0.98 goals against average and a .967 save percentage. He also made several big stops on Sunday, which included two saves on New Jersey breakaways, to fend off the Devils.

“Hank is such a competitor. He works so hard,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said. “He’s an absolute workhorse – a great teammate. And I expected nothing less from him.”

New York coach Alain Vigneault isn’t surprised by Lundqvist’s recent play.

“This is the start of my fourth year. As soon as I got here, I knew his preparation and his work ethic in practice,” Vigneault said. “That’s why he was one of the best goaltenders in the league at that time, and he continues to be. He just works at his game, he’s really focused, and he’s a great person.”

Mats Zuccarello also scored in the shootout, and Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan had goals in regulation.

PA Parenteau and Miles Wood scored and Cory Schneider stopped 24 shots as the Devils lost their sixth straight. Michael Cammalleri had a shootout goal.

“Things are going to happen in hockey games,” Cammalleri said. “We aren’t hiding from the fact that we’re on a losing streak and we have to get out of it.”

Parenteau broke a scoreless tie early in the second with his seventh goal of the season and the Devils on the power play. Parenteau pushed a loose puck underneath Lundqvist and off the post, but the Rangers’ goalie inadvertently hit the puck into the net as he tried to cover it up.

The Rangers upped the pressure in the third and after several chances that were stopped by Schneider. New York finally found the back of the net as Mats Zuccarello quickly swung the puck from behind the net to Kreider, who tapped the puck in to even the score at 8:10.

The Devils quickly responded to recapture the lead with 9:28 left in the third. Adam Henrique forced Dan Girardi to turn over the puck behind the Rangers’ net, fought off two Rangers players and sent the puck to Wood, who got a quick shot off in front of the net to give the Devils the 2-1 lead.

However the Rangers kept pressing and tied it with 1:13 left in regulation as Stepan redirected the puck past Schneider.

“It’s not the result we wanted so that’s a little frustrating and disappointing,” Schneider said. “I thought our defending was good here against a really offensive team, but again at the end of the day it’s the two points that matter.”

Sunday was the final time the Devils will play at Madison Square Garden this season and the loss extended their struggles away from Prudential Center. New Jersey is now 4-11-5 on the road and looking snap their six game skid.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.