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


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.

The Buzzer: Kane net four; Preds first to clinch

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Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

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Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.

NHL.com’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told NYRangers.com on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/tags/NHLhockey

Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

“It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

“There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

“Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

“I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

“So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.