Henrik Lundqvist was busy while stopping 31 of 32 Philadelphia shots that got through to him in the New York Rangers’ Game 3 playoff win over the Flyers.
Who knows how exhausted he would have been if not for the 28 drives that never penetrated the wall of defense that shielded him?
Lundqvist allowed just one first-period goal in New York’s 4-1 victory in Philadelphia on Tuesday night that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the first-round series between Metropolitan Division rivals.
”Shot blocking is a skill, but it takes a lot of will and courage. Our guys have that,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Wednesday during a conference call. ”It has more to do with the willingness to find that lane and block that shot.
”You know it’s coming and you know it’s going to hurt. That’s just part of winning hockey. Teams that usually have that in their repertoire are usually good teams. We had to make some great defensive plays.”
New York took an early 2-0 edge in Game 3, yielded momentum back to the Flyers – just as the Rangers did in their Game 2 home loss Sunday – but managed to restore the two-goal lead in the second period and add an insurance goal in the third to reclaim home-ice advantage in the series.
In New York’s series-opening 4-1 win, the Rangers yielded only 15 shots on goal and blocked 16 other attempts. The Flyers gave up 36 shots and blocked 22 drives by the Rangers.
Philadelphia again blocked 22 attempts in a 4-2 win in Game 2 and allowed 33 shots. The Flyers recorded 25 shots on Lundqvist and had 13 blocked.
”It’s a big part in the playoffs,” Lundqvist said. ”That’s huge when guys pay the price like that. It’s tough mentally for the other team when you try to get going and guys are just throwing themselves in front of the puck and stop it.
”I think it brings a lot of energy to the group when you see a big block because every play matters right now. Even though it’s a 3-1 game, if they score it can change everything.”
Although the Flyers threatened often, the Rangers never let them catch up as Philadelphia has proven it could do all season.
This was defense the Flyers weren’t used to, however. The most shots Philadelphia had blocked in any game this season was 30 against Toronto on March 8.
Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux chalked up the Rangers’ blocking ability to ”good timing, I guess.”
”One thing we need to look at is make sure that the puck goes through,” Giroux said. ”Our defense did a good job blocking shots. When it’s going to start going through, it’ll start going in.”
The Flyers, who had an additional 20 shot attempts that missed the net, got in front of 11 potential drives by the Rangers. But Ray Emery allowed four shots to go in before he was replaced in the third period by previously injured No. 1 goalie Steve Mason, who is the likely starter in Game 4 on Friday in Philadelphia.
If the Flyers can’t get pucks past the shot-blockers and Lundqvist, whichever goalie Philadelphia has guarding its net won’t matter much.
”We’ve got to move the puck quicker than we are,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said of his club’s power play that went 0 for 5 on Tuesday. ”I think it’s too predictable with what we’re doing.”
With a two-day break before Game 4, the Rangers returned home after their latest victory. They had the day off Wednesday, will practice on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, and then head back to Philadelphia.
Of the Rangers’ 18 skaters on Tuesday, 15 were credited with at least one blocked shot. Seven players had at least two, and defenseman Dan Girardi had a team-high five.
”We just played a lot harder than we did in Game 2, and that shows through desperation,” said Girardi, who also scored a key goal Tuesday. ”They’re not a team that’s just going to give up and roll over.”