Mats Zuccarello scores in OT, Rangers edge Red Wings 2-1
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Rangers need Henrik Lundqvist at his best to compete in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Against the Detroit Red Wings, the franchise goalie was elite.
Lundqvist made 40 saves — many of the acrobatic variety — and thanks to Mats Zuccarello's goal 37 seconds into overtime, the Rangers beat Detroit 2-1 on Friday night.
Zuccarello scored his fourth goal of the season, off assists from Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller and the Rangers improved to 12-9-2 with their third straight victory and ninth in 11 games.
"I feel really good," said Lundqvist, who won for the 416th time in his career. "There were chances both ways. To play the game was a lot of fun but it was also challenging."
Zuccarello said Lundqvist's playoff-level heroics were not a surprise.
"We expect him to be like that every game," he said. "If we can help him out, we know how good he can be."
Chris Kreider also scored for New York, which extended their home winning streak to seven games. They are 9-4-2 overall at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers also continued their trend of stingy defense, allowing two or fewer goals for the fourth straight game and the sixth time in their last seven contests.
"A lot of people complain about low scoring games but for me anyway, this was an entertaining as it could get," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Tomas Tatar scored for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard stopped 29 shots as the Red Wings fell to 10-9-4 but their coach Jeff Blashill was heartened by his team's effort.
"Overall we played the way we need to play to be successful," he said. "Both goalies were obviously great. And they are a team that wins many games here for a reason."
Tatar opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 4:05 of the third.
Kreider tied it at 10:17 when he knocked a rebound past Howard.
Tatar's seventh goal of the season came with two seconds left on a tripping penalty to Michael Grabner. Tatar ripped the puck past Lundqvist, with assists to Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg.
Kreider's tying goal, his eighth of the season, was assisted by Pavel Buchnevich and Skjei.
Kreider's line with Buchnevich and center Mika Zibanejad has a combined 16 goals and 16 assists over the last 12 games.
Tatar's tally came after two-plus scintillating periods in which both goaltenders each made a number of acrobatic saves.
Lundqvist made 17 saves in the opening period, plus a sprawling game-saver against Dylan Larkin at 11:58 of the third.
"I'm trying to be on my toes right now," added the 35-year-old Lundqvist, who improved to 11-6-2 on the season. "I'm aggressive but still patient. Right now I'm in a nice flow where I don't overthink things."
The Red Wings dominated the first, outshooting the Rangers 17-6. New York also had to withstand two short-handed situations, penalties to former Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith. He was sent to Rangers last season at the trade deadline.
NOTES: Nine of the last 10 games between New York and Detroit have been decided by one goal. In addition, 13 of the last 15 games and 17 of the last 21 meetings between the two teams have been decided by the same slim margin. ... Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley left the game after colliding with Rangers forward Paul Carey at center ice with 7:55 left in the first period. ... Rangers forward Boo Nieves suffered a lower-body injury and left the game after several shifts early in the second period. ... Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh missed his second straight game because of an abdominal strain. ... The Rangers scratched center David Desharnais ... Detroit scratched forwards David Booth, Luke Witkowski and Martin Frk. ... The teams meet in Detroit on Dec. 29 and again in New York on Feb. 25, when Rangers will honor Hall of Fame center Jean Ratelle and retire his No. 19.
Red Wings: Host New Jersey on Saturday night.
Rangers: Host Vancouver on Sunday night.