Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers lead NHL standings after Talbot torments Panthers

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When New York Rangers GM Glen Sather went all-in at the trade deadline, he was probably envisioning something like this.

After beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday, the Rangers are clearly the top team in the Eastern Conference at the moment and hold tiebreakers over whichever West team wins tonight’s Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks game.

Goaltending’s been a big part of their strong work, even if the guy you’d expect to be driving things (Henrik Lundqvist) hasn’t been healthy enough to go.

Mackenzie Skapski turned heads with his first NHL shutout on Saturday, yet Cam Talbot continues to make an argument that he can be a No. 1 goalie himself. He stopped 38 out of 39 shots for his 17th win of the 2014-15 season, and it’s pretty clear that New York leaned heavily upon him today:

The Rangers now have 95 standings points, which seats them five points ahead against the New York Islanders (who have played three more games than the Rangers). The Blueshirts also have a seven-point lead and one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, so a division title looks very likely as of this writing.

(The Rangers also have a two-point edge and game in hand on Montreal for the East’s No. 1 spot, so … yeah, it’s a pretty rosy situation right now.)

Is this to say the Rangers are perfect? No, it’s probably fair to wonder if this remarkable run of goaltending might hit a brick wall in the postseason. One could probably strain to find other negatives here and there.

Still, the Rangers are looking like a force in the East right now, and Talbot is a big reason why.

They do, however, have to keep an eye on Martin St. Louis’ injury situation. Read more about that here.

Could Dan Ellis be the next out-of-nowhere sensation?

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If there’s a building goaltending narrative in 2014-15, it’s been about netminders unexpectedly redeeming themselves or almost appearing out of the blue.

Devan Dubnyk went from a wayward soul last season to a possible Vezina nominee for the Minnesota Wild. The New York Rangers somehow didn’t miss a beat when Cam Talbot took over for Henrik Lundqvist. The question in Ottawa went from “Who is Andrew Hammond?” to “How do we beat him?”

It’s pretty early to add the man who was the Florida Panthers’ third goalie to the mix, but Dan Ellis certainly made a case that he should be in the argument with another strong performance Saturday.

Ellis stopped all 27 Carolina Hurricanes shots to grab a 2-0 win for Florida. He’s now currently on a three-game winning streak (and is 3-0-1 since taking over) after spending most of his year in the AHL.

Ellis, 34, comes into this situation in a fittingly weird way, as Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same odd game.

He doesn’t fit into the story of many others who were virtually unproven – Ellis now has 208 regular season games under his belt – yet the league soured enough on him that he wasn’t offered one of 60 NHL goaltending jobs to start 2014-15.

The Panthers still face a very, very long shot to get into the postseason, especially as Tuukka Rask really builds back into “totally worth $7 million” form.

If nothing else, it’s a cool story that follows an interesting pattern, though.

Lundqvist continues to skate but still no timetable for his return

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New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, out since Feb. 2 with a vascular injury, continues to skate, but there is still no update on when he could possibly return to game action.

That’s according to multiple reports Friday, including from The Record.

“I’m not quite sure what the next steps are, we’ll find out,” said Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault, as per the club’s website.

“When he gets clearance I don’t expect it to be too long before he’s in goal. He’s been skating since the beginning. The only thing he hasn’t been doing is taking shots up top. My understanding of his work load is that it’s been very intense, so it shouldn’t take him long to be back and playing.”

While Lundqvist has been out, Cam Talbot has done an impressive job taking over the starting duties.

Talbot has 12 wins in 17 games since Lundqvist went down with injury, and has allowed only a combined five goals in his last five starts.

It appears, however, that Talbot will get a night off. Mackenzie Skapski will start Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, as per Andrew Gross.

Video: Rangers take over Metropolitan Division lead after defeating Capitals

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The New York Rangers are surging, and serving notice to the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Playing for the second time in as many nights, and third time in four nights, the Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals by a final score of 3-1 on Wednesday’s Rivalry Night, with Martin St. Louis scoring the insurance goal on a pretty two-on-none passing play late in the third period.

After making it to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers have now taken over top spot in the Metropolitan Division. They lead the New York Islanders by one point. As difficult as their schedule has been to start this month — games against Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, New York Islanders and Washington — the Rangers have won four of those five games.

Even with Henrik Lundqvist out since Feb. 2, and he still has yet to be medically cleared, the Rangers have succeeded, and the play of Cam Talbot has been a large reason as to why. With his team ahead of the Capitals by a goal early in the second period, and trying to kill off a five-on-three situation, Talbot made a spectacular glove save on Nicklas Backstrom.

Alex Ovechkin scored goal No. 45 on the season, getting the Capitals on the board during a first-period power play.

Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein headed down the tunnel at the Rangers bench with less than a minute remaining, and appeared to be favoring his shoulder.

Capitals winger Jay Beagle sustained upper-body injury, did not return and will be re-evaluated tomorrow, according to the Capitals’ public relations department.

Updated: The Rangers stated that Klein is having x-rays taken after blocking a shot late in the game, however there is no further update.

Video: GMs to focus on possible changes to OT during upcoming meetings, says Dreger

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Could changes to the NHL’s overtime format be on the way?

According to hockey insider Darren Dreger on the NBCSN broadcast of Wednesday’s game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, NHL general managers will focus on OT during their upcoming meetings and could perhaps eventually modify the current format in an attempt to reduce the number of games decided by the shootout.

“I’m sure commissioner Bettman won’t like when I say this, but the reality is they (NHL GMs) need to curb it, but they don’t want to kill it,” says Dreger of the shootout.

The American Hockey League has gone to a seven-minute four-on-four and then three-on-three overtime this season, which has meant 77 per cent of the games that have gone beyond regulation have been decided in the extra period instead of the shootout.

Also, Henrik Lundqvist, out since Feb. 2 due to a vascular injury, still hasn’t been medically cleared to play, according to Dreger. It was reported last week that Lundqvist could return in 10 to 14 days.