NEW YORK (AP) Henrik Lundqvist didn’t start this night with a ceremony in his honor, and he didn’t finish it with a shutout.
However, he and the New York Rangers skated off the ice Wednesday with a key 3-1 victory over the rival Philadelphia Flyers and an important two points in the Metropolitan Division playoff race.
Lundqvist stopped 30 shots and came within 1:53 of his second shutout in three games. That was enough to earn his 30th win – a mark he has reached eight times in his nine-season NHL career.
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”It was huge. I thought we played a really strong game,” said Lundqvist, who is in 24th place on the NHL win list with 306. ”We just have to keep going, not think too much, just keep on our details.”
Lundqvist was honored Monday for recently breaking the Rangers’ records for career wins and shutouts.
The Rangers stretched their season-best winning streak to five games, and now embark on a four-game, Western Conference trip. It is their longest winning run since another five-game spurt from Dec. 30, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012.
The second-place Rangers moved three points ahead of third-place Philadelphia by winning what could be a playoff preview. New York has eight games remaining, and the Flyers have 10 left.
”It’s going to pay off to not make it too complicated for ourselves or think about the standings,” Lundqvist said.
Derek Dorsett scored in the first period, defenseman Ryan McDonagh added a goal in the second, and Dominic Moore made it 3-0 in the third against Steve Mason, who made 26 saves.
The Flyers’ Jakub Voracek scored his 21st goal off a faceoff with 1:53 to go to make it 3-1. Voracek scored for the third straight game, but it was too little, too late for Philadelphia.
The Flyers, who had a five-game winning streak broken against Los Angeles on Monday, have dropped two in a row for the first time since an 0-3-1 skid from Jan. 20-25.
”We didn’t play our game. We didn’t have energy. It was a weird game,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. ”We have to do a better job of getting ready. We had some big wins over good teams lately. Now we need some rest.”
McDonagh, who has been on an offensive hot streak recently, did it all in scoring his 14th of the season to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. He stopped a clearing attempt at the center of the blue line, skated into the right circle, and snapped off a hard, rising wrist shot that nestled into the top right corner of the net.
”We were able to catch them throwing pucks, and our D and everybody did a good job keeping pucks alive,” McDonagh said. ”We really wore them down in the offensive zone.”
McDonagh, who assisted on the Rangers’ tying goal late in regulation against Phoenix on Monday and then netted the winner in overtime as part of a career-best, three-point night, has six goals and seven assists in his past 13 games.
”For any team to win, you need your top players playing at a high level,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”(Lundqvist) has found his game, and Ryan McDonagh has just been a force out there. He’s got to be getting some consideration for the Norris (Trophy) the way he is playing offensively and defensively.”
Lundqvist did the rest in a quieter second period when his teammates outshot the Flyers 17-10. He moved well and didn’t seem bothered by constant traffic in the crease.
His best stop came with 5:23 left when he slid to his right to get his pad on a shot by Adam Hall off a rebound in tight. He then sprawled on his stomach and covered the puck with his glove.
In the opening minute of the second, Lundqvist denied Wayne Simmonds on a redirected shot and then pounced on the rebound.
Moore gave Lundqvist breathing room when he scored his sixth of the season with 12:21 remaining.
”We didn’t come out with our best effort,” Mason said. ”We have to be better in big games like this.”
Despite being outshot and outchanced by Philadelphia in the first, the Rangers carried a 1-0 lead into the intermission thanks to Dorsett’s fourth of the season.
Mason tried to swing the puck from behind his net up the left-wing boards, but it was intercepted by Brian Boyle along the wall. Boyle sent the puck in front to Dorsett, who knocked it down, gathered it and sent in a backhander at 8:41.
The Flyers picked up the pace and built a 15-6 shots edge in the first and nearly tied it during a late power play.
”Philly dominated us as far as shots, and they got some chances on that power play at the end,” Vigneault said of the first period, ”but that is when your goaltender has to come up big.
”When we had some breakdowns, he was the difference.”
NOTES: With Chris Kreider sidelined by a hand injury, the Rangers called up center J.T. Miller from Hartford (AHL). Kreider won’t accompany New York on its trip that begins Friday at Calgary. … The Flyers fell to 8-3-1 in March and 12-4-1 since Feb. 1. … The Rangers have won eight straight over the Flyers at home, dating to March 6, 2011.