Signing a rich contract earlier this month appeared to cement
Henrik Lundqvist as the New York Rangers’ franchise goaltender for
the foreseeable future.
Cam Talbot’s superior play, however, will keep the Vezina Trophy
winner on the bench for a third straight game.
After winning back-to-back contests with Talbot in net just
before the Christmas break, the backup will get the start again as
the Rangers open a five-game road trip against the Washington
Capitals on Friday night.
Lundqvist signed a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension
to become the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL, but he hasn’t
lived up to that lofty status this season. He’s gone 2-4-2 with a
3.41 goals-against average in eight games since inking the deal
Dec. 4, losing his most recent appearance 5-3 to the New York
Islanders at home last Friday after giving up four goals on 19
Talbot helped New York (18-18-2) bounce back by beating
Minnesota 4-1 on Sunday before defeating Toronto 2-1 in a shootout
the following day. He totaled 49 saves in those games and made two
more in the tiebreaker against the Maple Leafs as the Rangers
completed a 3-4-2 homestand.
“I’m just trying to go out there and give the guys a chance
whenever I get the opportunity,” Talbot told the team’s official
website. “Hopefully, we can come out of the Christmas break on the
Talbot will be making a third straight start for the first time
this season. He’s 8-2-0 with a 1.60 GAA and two shutouts in 12
games – 10 starts.
“It’s about winning. It’s about this team getting points. He’s
doing really well,” Lundqvist said Monday. “I have to push myself
to be a little bit better to help the team get points here. Then,
I’ll get more starts.”
Lundqvist has posted shutouts in his last two games at
Washington, including a 35-save performance in a 5-0 win in Game 7
of the opening round of last season’s playoffs.
He wasn’t nearly that effective in a 4-1 home loss to the
Capitals on Dec. 8, though, making 32 stops. For one more game at
least, he’ll play a supporting role.
“Cam has come in here with a calmness and a belief in himself,
and that is something we saw right away,” defenseman Anton Stralman
told the team’s official website Friday. “We have a goalie that
trusts himself, so we trust in him, too. He’s been playing really
While the Rangers may be hoping for some consistency from their
star, the Capitals (19-14-4) have certainly received plenty from
Alex Ovechkin. The three-time Hart Trophy winner leads the NHL with
30 goals and is tied with Anaheim’s Corey Perry and Pittsburgh’s
Evgeni Malkin for fifth with 41 points.
Ovechkin, though, hasn’t scored a goal on 37 shots over eight
straight meetings with the Rangers, including playoffs. He was held
off the score sheet by Anaheim in Monday’s 3-2 loss after totaling
eight goals and two assists in the previous six contests.
Washington squandered a two-goal first-period lead to the Ducks
for its second straight loss.
“It was just a couple of mistakes that cost us the win,” center
Nicklas Backstrom said. “Overall, I thought we played all right.
But it’s hard to say you played all right when you lose.”
Backstrom has assisted on 12 goals while scoring three of his
own over the past seven games, but he’s also struggled against New
York, failing to get a point in four straight meetings with one
assist over the last six.
Mikhail Grabovski has 10 points in 10 games, including a goal on
a penalty shot against Lundqvist to cap a three-goal second period