It’s not a surprise that Alain Vigneault thinks Henrik Lundqvist is the best player for the unbeaten New York Rangers.
It’s absolutely stunning that Oscar Lindberg is tied for the most goals in the NHL.
With Lundqvist in net again, Lindberg will try to continue the best start to a season by a rookie in team history Tuesday night when the Rangers face the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner and a three-time All-Star, Lundqvist has allowed two goals in each of the first three games for New York (3-0-0), posting a .943 save percentage. He made 37 stops while the Rangers scored the first five goals in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Columbus to sweep the home-and-home set on consecutive days.
New York is off to its best start since winning the first five games of 2008-09.
"He’s certainly been our best player since the start of the season," Vigneault said. "He played a very strong game again and he’s doing what a goaltender is supposed to do: Give his team a chance to win."
Vigneault should feel the same way about Lindberg, who scored two goals Saturday to become the first Rangers rookie to score a goal in the first three games of a season. He’s also the first Rangers rookie to score in his first three games since Steven King found the net in four straight games after making his debut in December 1992.
Lindberg’s four goals tie him with Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Zach Parise of Minnesota.
He had 28 goals and 28 assists in 75 games for Hartford of the AHL last season.
"Just trying to keep playing good and hopefully get some more goals," Lindberg told the team’s official website.
Derek Stepan is also off to a strong start to 2015-16, scoring two goals and assisting on another. The center has nine points in his last nine meetings with Winnipeg.
Lundqvist is 3-0-1 with a 1.47 goals-against average and one shutout over his last four starts against the Jets.
Dylan McIlrath, a native of Winnipeg and the 10th pick in the 2010 draft, will be in the lineup while Dan Boyle gets the day off. The rookie defenseman has been a healthy scratch in each game after playing in just three contests over the past two seasons.
"I think that Boyler can play a little bit better than he has played so far, but at the end of the day (this switch) has a little bit more to do with the fact that I want to see Dylan, so we decided to make a change," Vigneault said.
The Jets (2-1-0) are concluding their season-opening four-game road trip against Eastern Conference foes after surrendering the first three goals in a 4-2 defeat to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon.
"We came out flat and they came out hungry and ready to play," center Bryan Little said. "It was bit undisciplined and bit us chasing the puck."
Mark Scheifele is trying to set a franchise record by scoring a goal in four straight games to start the season. The center, however, hasn’t managed to get a point in three matchups with the Rangers, having all three shots on goal stopped by Lundqvist in the last meeting – a 3-2 home loss March 31.
Mathieu Perreault had an assist in that game, and he has two in each of the last two games.