NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist has done more than set a couple of franchise records for the New York Rangers this week. The Swedish goalie is keeping the Blueshirts in the thick of playoff contention.
Lundqvist made 21 saves in posting his Rangers record 50th NHL shutout, and New York improved its playoff chances with a 2-0 victory over the fading New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Lundqvist's fifth shutout of the season broke a tie with Ed Giacomin for the career mark, and it came less than a week after he set the Rangers' record for wins, eclipsing Mike Richter (301).
"We might as well do it in one week so we don't have to talk about it for a while," Lundqvist said. "Just a great feeling. This game was so important, and the points were important."
The win came just 24 hours after Lundqvist posted a 3-1 win over Columbus in a game between teams fighting for playoff positions in the Metropolitan Division. New York is in third place, four points in front of Columbus and one point behind Philadelphia. Both teams have played fewer games than the Rangers.
"We are still in a position where we are fighting for our lives," Lundqvist said. "We have to keep pushing ourselves and have the mindset that every point could be the difference right now. It's going to be until the end, the last game. A lot of it is going to be mental, how we push each other and approach every game as a must win."
Lundqvist has held opponents to two goals or fewer in 16 of his last 23 games, and he is 6-2 with two shutouts in his last eight starts.
"He's been tremendous," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "He has been in this position before. He is the leader on the back end, the backbone of our team. You can see it. He is talking a lot and making great efforts on second and third pucks around the crease. We need him to continue."
Rick Nash scored his team-leading, eighth game winning goal and Derek Stepan added an empty-net, power-play tally with 8 seconds left to give the Rangers their third straight road win.
New Jersey lost for the fourth time in five games and is in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
"It was a tough one," said New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, who made 25 saves. "We played a good game out there. It was a chess match. Just kind of a fluky goal was decisive in this game. It's unfortunate."
Lundqvist was good and lucky. He stopped Jaromir Jagr on a first-period breakaway and had a third-period shot in close go off the post.
He also survived a wild goal-mouth scramble, with Jagr and Travis Zajac whacking at a loose puck with 39 seconds to play after the Devils pulled Brodeur while New York was on a power play